Pentagon spies say Kim Jong Un is still tracking nuclear weapons

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This picture from the state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun shows North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, center, taking part in a military parade in Pyongyang early Thursday, September 9, 2021. (Rodong Sinmun)

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) – The US continues to monitor activities at North Korean nuclear sites that are “incompatible with full denuclearization,” said the Defense Intelligence Agency in a report released on Friday.

The conclusion, based on observations at the Yongbyon nuclear site and elsewhere, echoes the assessments US intelligence agencies have conveyed to former President Donald Trump, despite Trump’s efforts to conduct a direct summit diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Although North Korea has not carried out any nuclear tests since 2017, it has “reversibly” dismantled parts of its infrastructure for weapons of mass destruction, as the Pentagon‘s secret service has found out.

In recent years, “Kim has given priority to developing and demonstrating weapons that enable North Korea to target distant enemies – including the United States – with nuclear weapons,” the DIA said. These goals reflect a “deterrent and coercion” strategy that North Korea will use to develop and enhance capabilities ranging from land-based and submarine-launched ballistic missiles to nuclear weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles and cyberspace capabilities.

The report found that the closed nature of the North Korean regime made data collection difficult. It noted that North Korea’s economy was likely to have contracted in 2020 due to trade disruption related to COVID-19.

The military accounts for roughly 20-30% of North Korea’s economy, the report said, adding that Kim has made modernizing both nuclear and conventional forces a priority. North Korea now has electronic warfare and counter space capabilities such as GPS and satellite jammers. In addition, its ballistic missiles could theoretically disrupt orbiting satellites, the report said.

These high-tech capabilities are offset by long-term weaknesses, especially with regard to the logistics for “sustainable combat missions”. Although underground roads and military facilities would help the regime survive in a conflict, North Korea could only have sufficient supplies for two to three months of “defensive combat,” the Defense Agency said.

The report described Kim as the “fulcrum” of the North Korean military, adding that his public statements suggest that he has “sole clearance” for the country’s nuclear weapons.

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