Lawmakers say North Korea shows Trump shouldn’t trust it

Lawmakers say North Korea shows Trump shouldn’t trust it
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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill said Tuesday that intelligence showing North Korea is continuing to produce missiles that could hit the United States shows President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE should hold little trust in Pyongyang’s promises.

“I think it’s troubling, and I think it goes to the issue that in these negotiations we have to have our eyes wide open,” said Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanOvernight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget Pentagon chief calls reports of charges to allies erroneous: 'We won't do cost plus 50' Koch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority MORE (R-Alaska). “These guys cheated on every single agreement, either Kim Jong Un or his dad or his grandfather.”

The news came after small signs of cooperation by Pyongyang, such as the return of remains believed to be of U.S. service members from the Korean War.

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But North Korea never agreed to stop building missiles, and regional experts said Pyongyang will continue exploiting the ambiguities of the statement Trump and North Korean leader Kim signed at their summit.

The Washington Post first reported Monday night that U.S. intelligence agencies analyzing satellite imagery believe North Korea is building one or two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) at the same site that it produced the Hwasong-15 ICBM that can hit the United States.

“I read some additional classified materials this morning, and everything, both the public and private, would indicate they continue to move along in their program,” Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Brexit and exit: A transatlantic comparison Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday.

Asked if that concerns him as talks proceed, Corker said, “I think it’s just a fact.”

“Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do to change the trajectory of their program, but it’s continuing on today,” he said. “So [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo and others have a lot of work to do.”

The White House on Tuesday downplayed the report about North Korea’s ICBM production.

“This is a process,” White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump doesn't share values of Jewish community, says Dem Jewish advocate Kellyanne Conway defends Trump: Husband isn't a psychiatrist Trump: George Conway 'a whack job' MORE said on Fox News, before touting the return of the remains and of three hostages earlier this year. “Things don’t change overnight.”

But the revelation is the latest piece of information that calls into question the sincerity of North Korea’s stated willingness to denuclearize.

Earlier in July, several reports citing U.S. intelligence said North Korea is working to conceal secret nuclear fuel production facilities. Around the same time, several monitors released satellite imagery showing North Korea continuing to expand nuclear and missile facilities.

Last week, however, new satellite imagery showed North Korea has begun dismantling the missile engine testing facility Kim promised Trump he would destroy. 

North Korea also returned 55 caskets of remains believed to be of U.S. troops killed or lost during the Korean War, which was a commitment made in Kim and Trump’s joint statement.

The statement, signed at the June summit in Singapore, committed North Korea to working toward denuclearization, which was left undefined, in exchange for the United States providing unspecified security guarantees.

And though Trump after the summit declared North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat and has touted that it has not conducted a missile or nuclear test in months, experts long warned Pyongyang was likely continuing less visible activities such as missile production.

Further, experts said, Kim was clear in his New Year’s address that he planned to “mass produce” missiles and nuclear weapons after last year’s successful ICBM test

As such, they were unsurprised by the intelligence finding.

“The North Koreans are really good about telling us what they’re going to do before they do it,” said Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for National Interest. “The North Koreans have never said they were going to freeze their missile and nuclear weapons production, so this was to be expected.”

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said the news about ICBM production was the latest sign that Kim’s true intention is for North Korea to be accepted as a nuclear power.

“Some of us have thought from the beginning that the goal of Kim Jong Un and his government was to be Pakistan, to be accepted as a nuclear weapons state and treated like a normal country,” Manning said. 

On Capitol Hill, Democrats who have little trust in Trump’s statecraft were similarly nonplussed, saying they saw it coming.

“I’m not surprised,” said Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinWarren, Klobuchar call on FTC to curtail use of non-compete clauses Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Democrats offer legislation to counter White House climate science council MORE (D-Md.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “What we heard from the experts prior to the Singapore summit was that it’s unlikely that Kim Jong Un would give up his nuclear weapons, and that he would look for a way to be able continue to have a nuclear weapons capacity.” 

Trump needed to get a full disclosure of activities from Kim and put a freeze in place, Cardin said.

“We didn’t even get that,” Cardin continued. “And as you can see it looks like [Kim’s] trying to do symbolic issues that are not important to his nuclear program, while still enhancing at least the delivery systems. So that’s a major concern, but not a surprise.”

Fellow Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDem senator wants Trump to extend immigration protections to Venezuelans Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE (D-Va.) also said North Korea continuing to produce ICBMs is unsurprising, particularly after Pompeo’s thin testimony to the committee last week.

“We got zero details out of the secretary of State last week about what if anything was agreed to, so much so that we weren’t even sure if he knew what if anything was agreed to, and so we’re not surprised,” Kaine said. “The president so oversold it, and now the details look pretty weak.”

Trump’s defenders were less convinced that talks are off track.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had not seen the intelligence of North Korea constructing missiles as of Tuesday afternoon, but said he wanted to look at it to see if production is actually winding down.

“I’d like see the documentation on that,” he said. “That may be true, and they may be just winding down."