Appearing on CBS's Face the Nation, national security adviser John Bolton said North Korea's weapons programs could be shut down in a year. Under a proposed U.S. plan, North Korea's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs would be dismantled rather quickly as long as Kim Jong-un cooperates.
During the interview, Bolton said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be discussing the dismantling plan with the North Koreans, a meeting which could happen within a few days. While the State Department has not confirmed travel plans, Pompeo is reportedly going to North Korea later this week. According to Reuters, South Korea media is reporting an agenda for Pompeo's visit is being worked out between U.S. envoy Sung Kim and North Korean officials.
Despite Bolton's timeline to shut down the weapons programs, U.S. intelligence agencies are not quite certain how many nuclear warheads are in North Korea. Current estimates put the figure at 50, but many experts suspect Kim Jong-un is hiding many more, likely in caves or underground installations.
Stanford University Professor Siegfried Heckler had the opportunity to tour a North Korea nuclear facility in Yongbyon eight years ago. By his calculations, it would take the better part of 10 years to break down and clean up this site alone.In addition, U.S. intelligence authorities suspect North Korea has even increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons despite the recent meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Trump. At the June 12 summit held in Singapore, the North Korean leader and the president signed an agreement to "work toward de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
Many intelligence officials believe North Korean does not have any intention of giving up its weapons programs. Bolton said the U.S. government is completely cognizant of who they are dealing with.
"We know exactly what the risks are - them using negotiations to drag out the length of time they have to continue their nuclear, chemical, biological weapons programs and ballistic missiles," he said. "We're well aware of what the North Koreans have done in the past."
Both U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Lindsay Graham are calling for "reliable inspections" of weapons programs in North Korea. The regime has been known to break promises to de-weaponize in the past. On NBC's Meet the Press, Graham said he wouldn't be surprised if "[North Korean officials] are saying one thing and doing another."