Stories by Adam Mount

Expert Voices

Ignoring North Korean missile tests could hamper nuclear talks

woman standing next to a television showing a missile launch
Footage of a North Korean missile launch playing on a television in Seoul, South Korea. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

Less than a month ago, President Trump was standing on North Korean soil with Kim Jong-un. This week, North Korea carried out 2 more tests of an advanced missile first shown in May, but to a longer range — demonstrating that its arsenal continues to improve even as disarmament talks nominally continue.

Where it stands: South Korean President Moon Jae-in has spoken of disarmament and peace as “irreversible” processes, and Trump apparently assumes that the specifics of an agreement will sort themselves out, thanks to his personal relationship with Kim Jong-un. But it's clear that Kim has other plans.

Expert Voices

U.S. needs tactical shift in North Korea talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) listens to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on October 7, 2018. Photo: Kim Hong-Ji/AFP via Getty Images

In the past week, North Korea made two moves that undermined nuclear negotiations with the United States. On Friday, the regime vowed it could resume “building up nuclear forces.” And this week, Korean negotiators reportedly didn’t get on their plane to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, furthering a trend of ignoring U.S. diplomats just under the president.

Why it matters: If talks fail now, Pyongyang will have weathered some economic pressure, but also enjoyed a year of producing missiles and nuclear warheads, collecting praise from the U.S. president, and building new diplomatic ties with Moscow and Beijing. Missiles that have been flown only once would likely be tested fully, while South Korea’s successful arms-control process would stagger on without an allied partner.

Expert Voices

With North Korea progress stalled, new course could still reduce threat

Mike Pompe and Kim Yong Chol walk into meeting room
Secretary of State Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, at their meeting in Pyongyang on July 7, 2018. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump said on Twitter Monday he has "confidence that Kim Jong-un will honor the contract we signed" for the "denuclearization of North Korea." But in fact, Pyongyang has offered only a series of gradual, reciprocal steps unlikely to lead to full disarmament.

The details: After the Trump–Kim summit in Singapore and three Pyongyang visits by Secretary of State Pompeo, there is still little momentum to dismantle the nuclear program. North Korea has not agreed to stop nuclear and missile developments; open satellite imagery shows it is expanding its capacity to produce plutonium and uranium and to deploy a larger missile force; and the missile test site it offered to dismantle stands intact.