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Tue Mar 5, 2019, 02:03 AM

Thae Yong Ho Says Secret Uranium Enrichment Facility Deal Breaker in Hanoi

(Source- TV Chosun 03.2) US North Korea dispute going forward- are there or are there not other nuclear facilities in North Korea?

According to Thae Yong Ho, former DPRK diplomat and high level defector to South Korea, US National Security Adviser, John Bolton embarrassed Kim Jong Un by raising the so called secret nuclear facility issue directly with Kim Jong Un at the summit. Kim's apparent confusion at how to respond to the question resulted in in the DPRK Foreign Minster, Ri Yong Ho, sitting next to Kim stopping the talks. That's where the talks ended according to Thae's analysis. There are statements from the press interview of Choi Son Hui, from the DPRK, and also Donald Trump that indicated there may be something to this.

Kim could have been surprised for a couple of other reasons. Maybe this issue wasn't on the agenda for instance in the "small deal," scenario and wasn't addressed by the working level representatives. Or the facility or facilities don't exist. Thae suggests Kim is lying.

Choi Son Hui the veteran nuclear negotiator, said it was her feeling that Kim didn't understand the US calculating method in making additional demands.

Thae made some remark on the extended interview on Channel A News that the CIA probably would have cheered during the gotcha John Bolton moment or words to the effect. He made essentially the same comment in the podcast above from TV Chosun from which the still shot is taken. Other analysts felt that the issue in contention was likely related to the so called Kangson secret uranium enrichment site in the news last summer after the first summit. This is the link from the Diplomat.com:


A lot of the public information about the suspected enrichment site in Chollima, North Korea, is based upon analysis provided by Jeffrey Lewis. Lewis almost always qualifies his analysis with appropriate caveats, as one should in intelligence work:

“What we feel comfortable saying is that we can’t say whether it is, or is not, an enrichment plant,” Lewis noted. But, “this is a suitable building that has a number of signatures consistent with that and no obvious inconsistencies,” he continued. Whatever the purpose of the site, Lewis continued, this facility at Kangson was “clearly a sensitive national defense site.”

Gareth Porter deconstructed the multiple secret enrichment plant stories in an article published in 38North.org* : How the Media Wove a Narrative of North Korean Nuclear Deception.


With respect to the alleged nuclear enrichment facility at Kangson, Michael Madden authored a critical analysis, also at 38North.org, debunking unqualified allegations about Kangson in popular media reports:

However, while the intelligence community has been monitoring this site for more than a decade, its actual function is still in question. It does have some of the characteristics of a site for production of weapons grade material, but a variety of contextual factors, especially the location, suggest it has been built and is being used for some other purpose.


In a final irony, on March 1, Jeffrey Lewis published an opinion piece at NPR.com titled Trump Just Walked Away From The Best North Korea Deal He'll Ever Get.


Lewis doesn't seem as convinced as Bolton and the other neocons that this should have been a deal breaker. This brings to mind Stephen Biegun's comments about intelligence information and policy in his presentation at Stanford not too long ago before the summit in which he said:

But we also have to understand what intelligence information is. Intelligence information is data and information combined with analysis that’s given to policymakers, and if you take it out of context, you – if you divorce it from policy, then you have a very incomplete picture, and this is really where my frustration is with the story that played out last week....

...So my frustration isn’t with the accuracy of the information. It’s how it’s presented and how it’s interpreted. You cannot divorce the intelligence information from policy. The intelligence information is critical as an underpinning for the policy, but the policy is to address the threat and that’s what my frustration was last week.

So one has to question the strategy of using a summit on the critical issue of denuclearization to test whether your intelligence theory about multiple alternative nuclear complexes is true or not. Thae suggests it is true from Kim's ambiguous response. It's much more likely that sandbagging the negotiating process was the policy objective of Bolton and Pompeo. Widening the agenda at the last minute to raise issues, such as a comprehensive inventory of nuclear weapons facilities, warheads, and "weapons of mass destruction" the old Bush administration cassus belli, that had not been discussed or agreed upon by Beigun's working group and their DPRK counterparts, was a sure method to derail negotiations, as, Bolton, the "bureaucratic insider," well knew. Trump, Bolton and Pompeo killed the small deal concept, threw Biegun under the bus, and went back to the Libyan model for negotiation. The one bundle approach with the code "big deal, not small deal," substituted an all or nothing negotiating process, in lieu of, step by step reciprocal trust building measures, leading potentially to a comprehensive denuclearization in stages.

*38 North is a website devoted to informed analysis of North Korea.

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