The United States has a plan that will lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs within a year, said President Donald Trump’s national security adviser on Sunday, although US intelligence has given signs that Pyongyang does not intend to abandon its arsenal altogether.
John Bolton said US top diplomat Mike Pompeo will discuss this plan with North Korea in the near future. Bolton added that it would be advantageous for Pyongyang to cooperate so that sanctions would be lifted quickly and aid from South Korea and Japan would begin to flow.
Bolton’s comments on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program appear to be the first time the Trump government has publicly suggested a timetable for North Korea to honor the commitment made by leader Kim Jong-un at a summit with President Donald Trump last month.
Despite Trump’s optimistic assertion that the North is no longer a nuclear threat, Washington and Pyongyang have yet to negotiate the terms under which it would abandon the weapons it has developed over decades to detain the United States.
Doubts over North Korea’s intentions have deepened amid reports that the country continues to produce nuclear weapons material.
The Washington Post claimed on Saturday that anonymous sources of the Pentagon’s intelligence believe that Kim does not intend to give up his nuclear stockpile completely and that he may try to fool Washington as well as hide secret facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs .
The publication also says that an internal Pentagon report points out that North Korea does not intend to stop having nuclear weapons.
A US official told the Associated Press that the Post’s report was accurate and that the assessment reflected the views of US government agencies in recent weeks. The official was not authorized to publicly comment on the matter and asked for anonymity.
Bolton declined to comment on intelligence issues. He said the administration was well aware of North Korea’s history over the decades in dragging out negotiations with the US to continue developing arms.
“We have developed a program. I am sure Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will discuss this with the North Koreans in the near future on how to dismantle all their weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs within a year,” Bolton said. “If they have the strategic decision already made to do this, and cooperate, we can move very quickly,” he added.
He said that the one-year program that the US is proposing would cover all of the North’s chemical and biological weapons, nuclear programs and ballistic missiles.
Even if North Korea is willing to cooperate, the dismantling of its weapons of mass destruction programs, which are believed to cover dozens of test sites, will be difficult. Stanford University academics, including nuclear physicist Siegfried Hecker, a leading expert on the Northern nuclear program, proposed a 10-year road map for this task; others say it may take less time.
Pompeo has visited Pyongyang twice since April to meet Kim – for the first time he was still director of the CIA – and there are discussions about a possible third trip to North Korea later this week, but that visit has not yet been confirmed.
Trump reiterated in an interview broadcast on Sunday that he thinks Kim is serious about denuclearization.
“I made a deal with him. I shook his hand, I really think he’s serious,” the president said in Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures.
Trump defended its decision to suspend military exercises with South Korea – a significant concession to North Korea, which has so far suspended nuclear and missile tests and destroyed tunnels at its nuclear test site, but failed to take concrete steps to denuclearize.
“We’re saving a lot of money right now,” Trump said.
“So we did not give anything, what we are going to give is good things in the future, and by the way, I really believe that North Korea has a great future. I got along very well with President Kim,” said Trump.
The pressure will now be on Pompeo to advance negotiations with North Korea to turn the summit declaration into concrete action. He spoke to China, Japan and South Korea in recent days about the situation in the North, according to the State Department, who declined to comment on upcoming trips.
Pompeo postponed plans to meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his colleagues from India on July 6, which fueled speculation of a possible trip to Pyongyang.