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According To Reports North Korea Still Producing Missiles


A report in today's Washington Post says U.S. intelligence agencies have evidence that North Korea is continuing to manufacture long-range ballistic missiles despite pledging to work towards nuclear disarmament. South Korea appears undisturbed by the news, as NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Seoul.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: The Washington Post reports that intercontinental ballistic missiles of the sort that could reach the continental U.S. are still being made at the Sanum-dong facility just outside the North Korean capital. South Korean media made little mention of the report, and North Korea watchers seemed unimpressed.

KUYOUN CHUNG: We cannot blame North Korea for doing that...

KUHN: Kuyoun Chung is a political scientist at Kangwon National University.

CHUNG: ...Because at the Singapore summit, they didn't really promise that they will stop developing nuclear weapons and developing missiles in the future.

KUHN: Chung says that reports such as the Post's are not likely to deter South Korean President Moon Jae-in from his policy of engagement with the North. She says that Moon believes that progress in inter-Korean relations should pave the way for progress on the nuclear issue and not necessarily the other way around.

CHUNG: The current administration under Moon, under President Moon, they seem to believe that they can separate inter-Korean relationship from North Korea and United States' relationship.

KUHN: If Moon's administration has seen evidence of North Korea continuing to make missiles, they're not letting on. When asked about the report, Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesman Kim Deuk-hwan had this to say.


KIM DEUK-HWAN: (Through interpreter) The government is carefully watching North Korea's movements with close cooperation between the U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies. But please understand it's difficult for us to comment on intelligence matters.

KUHN: Some observers are skeptical about the reports, which rely on anonymous official sources and appear to be intentionally leaked to the media. Joel Wit is a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.

JOEL WIT: It feels like the leaks are meant to undermine what the Trump administration is trying to do moving down this road to denuclearization and ending the hostile relationship.

KUHN: Wit says such reports also put pressure on South Korean President Moon.

WIT: The danger here is that the Trump administration will be derailed for some reason. And that'll place President Moon in a very awkward position.

KUHN: Wit adds that North Korea has taken significant steps to dismantle some of its nuclear and missile testing facilities, moves it didn't have to make but that have been forgotten amid the reports of its alleged deceptions. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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