“North Korea is working to ensure its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities cannot be destroyed by military strikes, U.N. monitors said ahead of a meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials to prepare a second denuclearization summit,” Reuters reports.
President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “are planning on meeting in Vietnam in late February,” CNN reports.
“Trump’s agenda during the summit is still not clear.”
“Russian officials made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall aimed at resolving deadlocked negotiations with the Trump administration over its nuclear weapons program,” the Washington Post reports.
“In exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, Moscow offered the country a nuclear power plant.”
Axios: “This marks yet another example of an emboldened Russia intervening publicly and privately in key global hotspots, often times in direct conflict with U.S. interests.”
“U.S. intelligence officials have met with North Korean counterparts secretly for a decade, a covert channel that allowed communications during tense times, aided in the release of detainees and helped pave the way for President Trump’s historic summit last year with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The secret channel between the Central Intelligence Agency and spies from America’s bitter adversary included two missions to Pyongyang in 2012 during the Obama administration by Michael Morell, then deputy CIA director, and at least one by his successor, Avril Haines.”
“The channel appears to have gone dormant late in the Obama administration. Mike Pompeo re-energized it while CIA director, sending an agency officer to meet with North Korean counterparts in Singapore in August 2017.”
“With a second U.S.-North Korea nuclear summit looming in February, researchers have discovered a secret ballistic missile base in North Korea — one of as many as 20 undisclosed missile sites in the country,” NBC News reports.
“The Kim regime has never disclosed the existence of the Sino-ri Missile Operating Base to the outside world. Ballistic missiles are the primary delivery mechanism for North Korean nuclear warheads.”
“President Trump will meet with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in late February, the White House announced on Friday, continuing a high-level diplomatic dialogue that has eased tensions but shown little progress in eliminating the North’s nuclear arsenal,” the New York Times reports.
“The announcement came after Mr. Trump met for 90 minutes in the Oval Office with Kim Yong-chol, the former North Korean intelligence chief who has acted as the chief nuclear negotiator for Mr. Kim.”
“New satellite images obtained exclusively by CNN reveal North Korea has significantly expanded a key long-range missile base located in the mountainous interior of the country, offering yet another reminder that diplomatic talks with the US have done little to prevent Kim Jong Un from pursuing his promise to mass produce and deploy the existing types of nuclear warheads in his arsenal.”
“President Trump plans to hold a second summit meeting early next year with Kim Jong-un, even though North Korea has failed to follow through with promises to start dismantling its nuclear weapons program, John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, said on Tuesday,” the New York Times reports.
Said Bolton: “They have not lived up to the commitments so far. That’s why I think the president thinks another summit is likely to be productive.”
“North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observed the successful test of an unspecified ‘newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon,’ state media reported Friday, in an apparent bid to apply pressure on the United States and South Korea,” the AP reports.
“It didn’t appear to be a test of a nuclear device or a long-range missile with the potential to target the U.S. A string of such tests last year had many fearing war before the North turned to engagement and diplomacy. Still, any mention of weapons testing could influence the direction of stalled diplomatic efforts spearheaded by Washington and aimed at ridding the North of its nuclear weapons.”
“The U.S. will not require North Korea to provide a complete list of its nuclear weapons and missile sites before President Donald Trump and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un meet for a second time,” Vice President Mike Pence told NBC News.
“Since an initial agreement for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula was reached between Trump and Kim in June, the United States has pressed the North Koreans to provide information on the entirety of its nuclear operations. The Kim regime has refused to provide the details of the country’s operations and postponed scheduled meetings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York City last week.”
“North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat,” the New York Times reports.
“The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.”
Said Trump, just last week: “We are in no rush. The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home.”
“The Trump administration is drastically cutting back on who on Capitol Hill gets to see intelligence reports on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program,” CBS News reports.
“Under the new rules, only each party’s House and Senate leaders, along with chairs and ranking members of foreign relations and intelligence committees, get direct access to the reports. It is a drastic change from previous distribution of North Korea related intelligence reports which, for the most part, gave access to the entire committees and the staffers on those committees.”
President Trump said that he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “fell in love,” The Hill reports.
Said Trump: “I was really being tough and so was he. And we would go back and forth. And then we fell in love. No really. He wrote me beautiful letters. They were great letters. And then we fell in love.”
NBC News: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he plans to shut down his country’s nuclear complex, halt missile testing and cease hostile acts toward South Korea as part of a new agreement unveiled Wednesday. The pact unveiled during a joint news conference held at the end of a two-day meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang also includes plans for the countries to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.”
But the New York Times cautions: “The offers Mr. Kim made on Wednesday … indicated that he was willing to curtail his country’s ability to produce more nuclear warheads and ICBMs. But they say little about what he will do with his existing arsenal. Mr. Kim’s ultimate goal, analysts say, is to make the Trump administration complacent enough about the recent détente to ease sanctions in return for a mere freeze — not the dismantlement — of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un requested a second meeting with President Trump, and U.S. diplomats are already working to set up the summit, Bloomberg reports.
“The request is the latest direct communication between the two leaders, who held a summit in Singapore in June and agreed that North Korea would abandon its nuclear weapons program. But Kim’s regime has shown little sign it’s moving toward denuclearization, and Trump canceled a planned trip to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month citing a lack of progress.”
NBC News: “The newest intelligence shows Kim’s regime has escalated efforts to conceal its nuclear activity, according to three senior U.S. officials. During the three months since the historic Singapore summit and Trump’s proclamation that North Korea intends to denuclearize, North Korea has built structures to obscure the entrance to at least one warhead storage facility.”
“The U.S. has also observed North Korean workers moving warheads out of the facility, the officials said, though they would not speculate on where the warheads went.”
“President Trump told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their Singapore summit in June that he’d sign a declaration to end the Korean War soon after their meeting,” Vox reports.
“But since then, the Trump administration has repeatedly asked Pyongyang to dismantle most of its nuclear arsenal first, before signing such a document. That decision is likely what has led to the current stalemate in negotiations between the two countries — and the increasingly hostile rhetoric from North Korea.”
North Korea’s state newspaper accused the United States of “hatching a criminal plot to unleash a war against the DPRK” while “having a dialogue with a smile on its face” following a report on South Korean radio that American forces in Japan were running drills aimed at invading Pyongyang, CNN reports.