North Korea is reportedly open to discussing denuclearization with the U.S., yet the rogue regime remains silent on the possible meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un and is literally building monuments to its missile program.
North Korea is constructing a monument at the launch site for the successful Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile test on November 28, 2017, according to Dave Schmerler, a research associate and respected geolocation expert in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies.
“After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15,” North Korean state media reported. “Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.” Believed to be able to deliver a nuclear payload to most, if not all, of the U.S. mainland, the Hwasong-15 ICBM is the most powerful weapon in Kim Jong Un’s nuclear arsenal.
In the wake of the Nov. 28 test, Schmerler noticed additional construction at the test site. The North began constructing a monument to memorialize its weapons test in med-February, and as of Sunday, it appeared to be near completion. This discovery led Schmerler to take another look at the test site for the Hwasong-14 ICBM test on July 4, 2017, and sure enough, another monument was present.
The monuments “suggest an ongoing effort by the government to memorialize the event,” Schmerler wrote in an Arms Control Wonk post. “Missile launches clearly mean a lot to the North Koreans.”
The construction of monuments commemorating milestone achievements in North Korea’s weapons development program suggests that Kim Jong Un is not merely developing weapons as bargaining chips to be traded away for a meeting with the U.S. and raises a lot of questions about the North’s reported offer to meet with the U.S. to discuss denuclearization.
Despite South Korea’s insistence that North Korea is ready to talk seriously about denuclearization, Pyongyang has not yet given any indication that it is ready to do so. North Korean state media has instead been running reports asserting that the North will never back down in the face of U.S. hostility and arguing that its nuclear weapons program is justified.
Trump, paraphrasing the message from South Korea, said Saturday that North Korea wants to “de-nuke,” but the rogue regime’s behavior certainly seems to suggest that Pyongyang has other intentions.
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