North Korea aiming to hide ongoing nuclear production — reports

The assessment comes on the heels of a landmark meeting between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump on June 12. (Korean Central News Agency via KNS / AFP)
Updated 01 July 2018
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North Korea aiming to hide ongoing nuclear production — reports

WASHINGTON: North Korea intends to maintain some of its nuclear stockpile and production facilities while potentially concealing them from the United States, The Washington Post reported Saturday, citing US officials.
The assessment comes on the heels of a landmark meeting between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, who has since the June 12 summit in Singapore buoyantly declared “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Evidence collected since the pair’s historic meeting points to secret production facilities and the development of methods to conceal weapons creation — implying Pyongyang is aiming to hide plans to continue its nuclear program from the US, having made contrary, if ambiguous, commitments to Washington.
Over the weekend NBC News first reported that Pyongyang has in fact recently been increasing fuel production for nuclear weapons at several hidden sites.
The US network, citing intelligence officials, said North Korea’s regime was readying to “extract every concession” from the White House rather than giving up its atomic arsenal.
“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” NBC quoted one US official as saying.
“There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US,” the official said, despite Pyongyang’s recent curtailment of missile and nuclear tests.
The only uranium enrichment spot North Korea has acknowledged publicly exists is Yongbyon — though reports of secret facilities have surfaced.
Experts have voiced fear that Washington may accept a lukewarm deal centered exclusively on Yongbyon that disregards known underground sites.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he plans to meet with Kim to “flesh out” details of the nuclear disarmament promise, but has insisted the North Korean leader is serious.
“There’s a lot of work between here and there. My team is already doing it. I’ll likely travel back before too terribly long,” the top US diplomat said recently.
“We still need to flesh out all the things that underlay the commitments that were made that day in Singapore.”
US Defense Secretary James Mattis meanwhile has reassured key East Asian allies that the US commitment to Seoul is “ironclad” — despite Trump’s unilateral suspension of military exercises with South Korea and his lauding of Kim as a “talented guy.”


Cobra Gold: One of Asia’s largest war drills opens in Thailand

Updated 56 min 47 sec ago
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Cobra Gold: One of Asia’s largest war drills opens in Thailand

  • Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia
  • On Saturday US, Thai and South Korean forces descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intended to simulate securing the territory

SATTAHIP, Thailand: With weapons drawn camouflaged troops leapt out of amphibious assault craft while explosions sounded and parachutists glided in from above as the annual Cobra Gold war games took over a placid Thai beach Saturday.
Now in its 38th year, Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia, bringing thousands of forces from the United States, Thailand and other countries together for 11 days of training on Thai shores.
This year’s drill includes some 2,000 US Marines, 1,000 US soldiers and hundreds from the country’s Navy and Air Force.
On Saturday US, Thai and South Korean forces descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intended to simulate securing the territory.
Captain Melvin Spiese said the goal was to “bring power from ship to shore” and be ready for “any kind of future crisis we might need to respond to with our Thai counterparts.”
Helicopters buzzed overhead and fighter jets roared across the skies.
Cobra Gold exercises span air, land and sea and feature a jungle survivalist session where participants take turns drinking blood from a severed cobra and snacking on insects and scorpions.
Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia also took part in the war games.
A 2014 army coup in Thailand tested ties with Washington and the kingdom tilted towards China with high-profile arms buys.
But US military sales continued and the two countries have upped their engagement under US President Donald Trump, who has stepped back on human rights issues and invited junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha to the White House.
Prayut, who led the 2014 coup, is standing for prime minister in elections set for March 24.