According to NBC News, negotiators from the U.S. are no longer demanding North Korea to give a full account of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. This is yet another step in the summit this week between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.
Making this huge concessions suggests that North Korea has no intention to denuclearize, which was Trump’s original goal for the summit.
Thus far, negotiations have focused on the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, a core component of Pyongyang’s program. Dismantling the facility would be the most significant step North Korea could make toward denuclearization.
“Yongbyon is the heart of North Korea’s nuclear program,” Dr. Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist who has visited the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center multiple times, said. Dismantling that reactor would be a huge step, because North Korea would never be able to make plutonium there again.
Although the U.S. has a clear goal, it is unclear if the U.S. has anything of enough significance to exchange. Although North Korea wants sanctions relief, Trump has been advised against granting that concession.
Researchers have discovered that North Korea has as many as 20 undisclosed ballistic missile sites. As long as they remain undisclosed, these sites cannot be a part of the negotiation.
Although North Korea hasn’t launched a missile test since its diplomatic engagement with the U.S. last year, it does continue to advance its nuclear capabilities.
Officials say it is difficult to predict the outcome of the negotiations because Trump could completely ignore the advice of his advisers based on preliminary negotiations with North Korea. Last fall he said in an interview, “my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”
Just because the U.S. has postponed requiring North Korea to disclose all of its weapons programs, this does not mean that the demand is forgotten. It could be addressed later, according to officials.
Even if Kim does provide locations for all of his weapon facilities, it wouldn’t make much of a difference, officials say. This is because dismantling the facilities would require a vigorous verification process, which Kim would not agree to.
Dr. Hecker said that “Letting inspectors look at the testing tunnels” would be a significant step forward.