A trio of Democrats is asking the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to hold a hearing on reports North Korea is increasing its weapons production even as denuclearization talks with the United State proceed.
“We are extremely concerned by this active, cumulative deception on the part of the North Korean regime and the corollary impact on our bilateral denuclearization talks,” the committee members wrote to Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.)
“As the committee of jurisdiction, we would be responsible for a potential winding down of sanctions on North Korea and for approving any other ‘sweeteners’ agreed to as part of a comprehensive deal. It is vital to our continued oversight that the committee hear from the administration on these concerning revelations and their assessment of ongoing discussions.”
The letter was signed by Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.).
Several reports over the last couple weeks have called into question North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize following President Trump ‘s summit with and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month.
First was an analysis of commercial satellite imagery by U.S.-based North Korea monitor 38 North that showed infrastructure improvements at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a “rapid pace.”
Still, the analysis said that “continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize. The North’s nuclear cadre can be expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang.”
Then came an NBC News report that said U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has in recent months increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites and that it may try to hide those facilities during talks.
In their letter, the lawmakers wrote that the report appears to confirm warnings from experts ahead of Trump and Kim’s meeting.
“In the lead-up to the president’s discussions with Kim Jong Un, arms control experts expressed repeated concerns that North Korea was likely operating undisclosed enrichment facilities aside from the disclosed facility at Yongbyon,” the lawmakers said. “The classified defense assessment not only confirms these assessments, but indicates that enrichment activity has ramped up.”
And this week, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies said satellite imagery shows North Korea continued to expand a major missile manufacturing facility around the same time that Trump and Kim met.
The reports come after Trump and Kim’s joint summit statement committed the United States to unspecified security guarantees in exchange for the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Pyongyang until Saturday to try to nail down details that the summit statement lacked.
In their letter, the lawmakers asked Royce for a hearing before the August recess, saying that “proper oversight” requires it.
“We look forward to working with you to address this critical threat to the United States,” they concluded.