May 08, 2018 12:28
The U.S.' call for a "permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement" of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs would pose a monumental task for international inspectors.
U.S. officials project "the most extensive inspection campaign in the history of nuclear disarmament, one that would have to delve into a program that stretches back more than half a century and now covers square miles of industrial sites and hidden tunnels across the mountainous North," according to the New York Times on Sunday.
The success of any verification hinges on accurately assessing North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile stockpiles, most of which are hidden away. Already U.S. intelligence agents are going all out to gather data about the North's nuclear and ballistic missile facilities.
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency recently launched a project that tracks the movements of all vehicles in and out of North Korean military installations, CNN reported. Washington has also monitored North Korean responses to American fighter planes flying overhead to arrive at an overall assessment of the North's hidden military bases.
One diplomatic source in Washington said the U.S. "may have assessed North Korea's secret military installations much more accurately than the North thinks."
The New York Times cited the RAND Corporation as arriving at no better assessment than that North Korea has 20 to 60 nuclear warheads and around 40 to 100 nuclear facilities, while one nuclear facility has more than 400 buildings.
"While there is no question Iran hid much of its weapons-designing past, North Korea has concealed programs on a far larger scale," the daily said.
The RAND Corporation predicts that it would take 273,000 U.S. troops just to locate and secure North Korea's weapons of mass destruction, which is more than the number of American soldiers deployed in Iraq at the peak of the U.S. invasion.
It warned that the International Atomic Energy Agency has only 300 inspectors, and 80 of them are already assigned to monitoring activities in Iran. If the North agrees in principle to denuclearize, the IAEA will have a huge task simply finding the personnel.
North Korea could easily conceal highly enriched uranium which could be used to produce a nuclear bomb, and it would be virtually impossible to find if the North fails to cooperate.
Justice Party lawmaker Kim Jong-dae, who recently visited Washington, told reporters that North Korea has "tens of thousands of facilities related to nuclear and missile development, while there are around 10,000 underground tunnels and storage facilities in the Mt. Baekdu area."
"Realistically, the U.S.-North Korea summit should discuss nuclear arms reduction rather than complete dismantlement," he added.
Mac Thornberry, head of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, told Fox New that he is "very skeptical" that North Korea will completely dismantle its weapons of mass destruction and advised the U.S. to "prepare for the worst."
But others warned that North Korea could face a grim future if it attempts to fool the U.S.
Hardline U.S. lawmaker Lindsey Graham said in a radio interview that North Korea played "every president before -– Clinton, Bush, all of them" but warned that Pyongyang would regret it if it tries to dupe the Trump administration since this would mean the "end of the North Korean regime."
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