US officials no longer demanding full accounting of North Korea nukes or missiles: report

US officials no longer demanding full accounting of North Korea nukes or missiles: report
© Getty Images

U.S. officials negotiating North Korea’s denuclearization are no longer demanding a full accounting of the nation’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals, according to an exclusive report from NBC News

The reversal suggests U.S. officials believe fully denuclearizing North Korea is increasingly out of their grasp, a reality the intelligence community has suggested in recent weeks is increasingly likely. North Korea’s refusal to provide a full disclosure of its weapons tanked nuclear negotiations a decade ago.

ADVERTISEMENT

The news comes as President TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in Hanoi for their second summit since June. Trump has expressed optimism that a deal can be reached and touted North Korea’s economic potential should harsh sanctions resulting from its nuclear program be lifted.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun suggested last month that officials would no longer demand a full list of North Korea’s arsenal up front.

“Before the process of denuclearization can be final, we must also have a complete understanding of the full extent of the North Korean weapons of mass destruction missile programs. We will get that at some point through a comprehensive declaration,” he said during a speech at Stanford University.

Even if Kim were to agree to a full accounting, it is unlikely he’d approve of the rigorous verification process that would follow.

Researchers have uncovered as many as 20 ballistic missile sites in recent months, according to NBC News, suggesting North Korea’s program is more developed than previously known. 

U.S. negotiators are hoping that North Korea will accept their demands this week to shutter its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which many consider to be the nuclear program’s crown jewel. However, Kim and other officials are demanding sanctions relief before any action is taken, a move the White House says will only take place following full denuclearization. 

North Korea has offered to freeze operations at Yongbyon during past negotiations, but it also has other sites that can pick up its slack. Though it has not tested any missiles or nuclear weapons since the first nuclear summit in Singapore last year, it has not ceased work on the programs.

-Updated 7:32 p.m.