UN monitors: North Korea working to protect nuclear missiles ahead of second US summit

UN monitors: North Korea working to protect nuclear missiles ahead of second US summit
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North Korea is working to protect its nuclear and missile stockpiles from military strikes, United Nations monitors said ahead of a planned meeting between President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for later this month.

U.N. monitors sent a confidential report to a 15-member U.N. Security Council sanctions committee saying they had “found evidence of a consistent trend on the part of the DPRK to disperse its assembly, storage and testing location,” referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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The memo was obtained by Reuters on Monday.

Preparations are underway to set up a second summit between Trump and Kim later this month to continue negotiating North Korea’s denuclearization. Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, is set to meet with his North Korean counterpart Wednesday and said he hopes to establish “a set of concrete deliverables” for the meeting.

Beigun added he is aiming to form “a road map of negotiations and declarations going forward, and a shared understanding of the desired outcomes of our joint efforts.”

South Korean officials told Reuters they and the U.S. may be prepared to agree to a compromise in the hopes of making progress on denuclearizing North Korea. The agreement would entail the dismantling of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, one of North Korea’s main nuclear sites, in exchange for a range of U.S. actions that could include formally ending the Korean War, according to Reuters.

However, the memo could throw into question the North’s commitment to denuclearization.

Trump and Kim met for their first summit in Singapore last June. Trump declared the gathering a success, citing the cessation of missile tests from North Korea and the returning of three U.S. hostages. However, while the president claimed “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Kim has not taken any verifiable steps toward reducing or destroying his nuclear arsenal.

North Korea argues that Washington has failed to reciprocate its halting of any missile or nuclear tests, urging the Trump administration to lift sanctions before any further actions are taken.

The U.N. memo echoed concerns that the sanctions have been leading to minimal progress.

“The country continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal,” the memo said. “These violations render the latest U.N. sanctions ineffective.”

North Korea has long maintained that its nuclear program is solely for defensive purposes and that it will not relinquish its weapons until the U.S. no longer threatens it with military action. The North has said U.S. troop withdrawal from the Korean Peninsula is a precondition for peace, though the administration has stated it will not completely pull out of South Korea until there is no longer a nuclear threat from its northern neighbor.