North Korea is working on new missiles, USA spy agencies say

Saul Bowman
August 2, 2018

Just weeks after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at a high-stakes summit in Singapore, officials told the Washington Post that Pyongyang seems to be developing at least one or two liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Intelligence collected by United States agencies showed, however, that senior North Korean officials have discussed plans to deceive Washington about the number of nuclear warheads and missiles they possess, as well as the types and number of facilities, and to rebuff global inspectors, according to the Post.

The Trump administration has hailed the repatriation as a significant goodwill gesture even as efforts toward persuading the North to abandon its nuclear weapons have faltered.

"The remains received from North Korea are being handled with the utmost care and respect by professional historians, forensic scientists, uniformed personnel and government officials", the U.S. -led U.N. Command said in a statement.

North and South Korea yesterday held military talks to build trust, while the United States detected renewed activity at a North Korean missile factory, casting more suspicion over Pyongyang's intentions.

North Korea gave the US the remains last week in the coastal city of Wonsan, North Korea, as part of an deal reached last month during President Donald Trump's historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

North Korea's propaganda website, Uriminjokkiri, also criticized South Korea for its stance of keeping sanctions, saying "sanctions and conversation can not exist side by side".

Earlier this month, media reports revealed that the North was secretly operating a suspected uranium enrichment facility, called Kangson. "So there will be discussions that are inclusive of North Korea".

The factory is known to have produced the Hwasong-15, the first North Korean ICBM capable of reaching the US.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also acknowledged during a Senate testimony on July 25 that North Korean factories "continue to produce fissile material" used in making nuclear weapons, although he declined to say whether Pyongyang is building new missiles.

"Our science has also improved exponentially in recent years, so our DNA analysts can now make a more complete identification with less DNA", she said, "which does help offset the age of some of the remains".

The US State Department has said it is committed to building a peace mechanism in place of the armistice when the North denuclearises.

Besides being the US's largest trading partner, China is arguably the most important player in Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign to force Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

Initial forensic analysis suggested the remains were likely to be of American servicemen, the USA military said.

Following the summit in June, Trump had declared that Pyongyang was "no longer a Nuclear Threat", but Kim did not publicly promise to end work at the country's nuclear and missile facilities. It has in the past two years quickly advanced its nuclear programme.

North Korea is also reportedly still secretly operating the Kangson uranium-enrichment facility.

Ahn Ik-san, the general leading the North Korean delegation at the military talks, said both sides agreed on "some issues", without elaborating. -North Korean recovery efforts, termed "joint field activities", between 1996 and 2005 yielded 229 caskets of remains, of which 153 have been identified, according to the Pentagon.

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