U.S. media reported Monday that satellite images recently captured indicate that work is underway on one or two liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) at a research facility in Sanumdong, near Pyongyang, North Korea. According to U.S. spy agencies, the presence of a large trailer and the movement of supply trucks and other vehicles point to ongoing work on at least one Hwasong-15, capable of reaching the United States.
In fact, it is little wonder that North Korea has been continuously producing nuclear weapons and missiles. What the Kim Jong Un regime promised was to halt conducting nuclear and missile tests, not to stop the operation of its facilities to develop nuclear weapons and missiles. A question that arises at this point is whether the North knowingly exposed the operation of its factory, with the United States in mind, which has been not active in responding to the regime’s demand for security guarantee. Earlier in May, a large complex near Pyongyang was captured in a satellite image that analysts believe is a uranium enrichment facility. Even U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged that North Korean factories “continue to produce fissile material.”
Pyongyang expressed its willingness to conduct “complete denuclearization” at the summits with Seoul and Washington, but has fallen short of going further than shutting down its nuclear and missile test sites, a symbolic action which is neither verifiable nor irreversible. Even rejecting the freeze of nuclear and missile facilities, which should be the precondition of denuclearization, the Kim regime is demanding that the United States declare the end of the Korean War. However, Washington will certainly not accept the North’s request unless a minimum level of preparations for denuclearization is made such as the declaration of nuclear weapons and facilities or the suggestion of a denuclearization timeline.
At the general-grade military talks held Tuesday at the border truce village of Panmunjom, the North Korean representative said that “(South Korean) latest news reports suggested that we might try to persuade the South to push for a joint declaration with the United States to formally end the war saying we have failed to persuade the United States. It is understandable that they think so,” in a nuance seemingly mocking but more like a confession. Meanwhile, North Korea has been escalating its condemnation of the South in propaganda reports. “Why is the current ruling power fettered with the shackle of sanctions on North Korea with regard to inter-Korean relations?” said the Rodong Sinmun, criticizing South Korea for “putting its hands and feet in a leg-iron” and calling for the resumption of the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism at the Mount Kumgang resort.
North Korea is employing a double-edged tactic towards the United States, which includes the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War and the revelation of its continued development of nuclear weapons and missiles. Yet, the regime is strongly condemning Seoul while blatantly demanding that the South Korean government lift sanctions on Pyongyang. It is an approach commonly used by the regime in the past when the North Korea-U.S. negotiations reached a deadlock. However, under the current situation where it has not even taken a first step towards denuclearization, North Korea’s such tactics are branding itself as unreliable, cutting off its nose to spite its face.