A confidential United Nations report says that North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs are still in place and that the country is taking steps to safeguard them against military strikes, Reuters reports. The report, compiled by U.N. sanctions monitors, was presented to the sanctions committee of the U.N. Security Council. It seems to contradict the outcome of a 2018 meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in which Kim agreed to begin denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That agreement, however, was short on specific details about what that would entail, or when it would take place.
This latest report comes just weeks before a second scheduled meeting between Trump and Kim. Leading up to the meeting, Trump has touted “tremendous progress” with respect to relations with North Korea. Even as the meeting approaches, it appears, per the report, that North Korea is using a variety of civilian facilities for the assembly and testing of ballistic missiles, diversifying their assembly and manufacturing in order to complicate the efforts of any rival nation seeking to wipe out their nuclear capabilities with a targeted strike.
For more than a decade, a steady escalation of sanctions against North Korea has aimed to reduce the country’s ability to further advance their nuclear program. Sanctions have lifted imports of both crude oil and refined petroleum products and banned outright the importation of coal, iron, lead, and other raw materials.
U.N. reports have also suggested that North Korea has been evading financial sanctions through illegal online transfers and the use of cryptocurrency exchanges.
Russia and China, two of the five permanent members of the Security Council, have advocated for a weakening of the sanctions maintained against North Korea, with other member nations, including the U.S., refusing to do so without progress on denuclearization.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 5, 2019
Despite U.N. concerns and Kim’s apparent unwillingness to curtail his country’s nuclear advancement, Trump has remained optimistic about the prospect of a denuclearized North Korea, frequently citing the personal relationship between the two leaders.
“I like him. I get along with him great. We have a fantastic chemistry,” he said recently, referring to Kim. Trump has also made reference to the potential role North Korea could enjoy as a more legitimate player on the world stage.
“And one of the reasons is because North Korea has a chance of being located between Russia, China, and South Korea,” he said. “What a location – I’m in the real estate business – what a location. They have a chance to be an economic powerhouse.”