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Two-Minute Take: Undeclared North Korea

New research released this week by Beyond Parallel and CSIS revealed 13 of an estimated 20 North Korean missile operating bases that are undeclared by the government. Bush Institute Fellow Victor Cha gives his two-minute take.

Article by Victor Cha November 16, 2018 //   3 minute read

What is the significance of CSIS’s findings, and how do they impact the Unites States’ diplomatic process with North Korea?

Our findings will not be new to those inside of governments, but they do show the general public that the DPRK weapons programs extend far beyond the items they have been "selling" to us (i.e., the nuclear test site and satellite launch facility) in return for a lifting of sanctions. These operational missile bases remain undeclared by North Korea yet threaten the United States, South Korea, and Japan. In this regard, we are trying to ensure that the public policy discussion about this remains well-informed.

President Trump downplayed the findings, tweeting they reveal nothing new. Last week, he said: “The sanctions are on. The missiles have stopped. The rockets have stopped. The hostages are home.” What aspects of the situation is he failing to assess?

Our study shows that while the missile tests may have stopped, they still have over a dozen operational missile bases from which they could launch ballistic missiles. Thus, the tests have stopped but the threat is still there and growing. Moreover, he refers to the return of U.S. hostages, but the human rights abuses continue in North Korea without any accountability being required of the North Korean leader to the international community and the UN, the latter of which has recommended referral of Kim Jong-un to the ICC for crimes against humanity.

*Shortly after Dr. Cha’s interview, the media reported the first North Korea weapons test since November 2017.

What does CSIS’s report mean for the idea of complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID)? 

It is hard to imagine CVID without an addressing of these operational missile bases that we have studied, in addition to the nuclear weapons programs. To address one without the other does not make us necessarily safer. North Korea would only like to offer those things that they no longer need. We need to focus on the entirety of the program and a full declaration from the regime, rather than a piecemeal approach.