In what will come as a surprise to few people outside the White House, a new report from the CIA that NBC News got hold of concludes that there’s no evidence the North Korean regime has any present intention to shut down its nuclear-weapons program.
President Trump is continuing to pursue a nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un even though the CIA analysis, which is consistent with other expert opinion, casts doubt on the viability of Trump’s stated goal for the negotiations, the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
“Everybody knows they are not going to denuclearize,” said one intelligence official who read the report, which was circulated earlier this month, days before Trump canceled the originally scheduled summit.
And even if the North Korean regime wanted to denuclearize, it’s not going to happen during the Trump presidency:
The CIA report came as a top nuclear expert argued in a new paper that the nuclear disarmament process in North Korea could take as a long as 15 years. Siegfried Hecker, a Stanford professor who once directed the federal government’s Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico — and who has toured North Korean nuclear facilities four times — argued that the sprawling nature of the North Korean program means it will take a long time to dismantle.
The CIA did make one finding, however, that could represent a sort of withered booby prize for Trump once he accepts that his original goal is impractical: if he does get around to visiting Pyongyang, he might be able to share one of his favorite meals with Kim Jong Un. Seriously:
[A] list of potential concessions by North Korea in the CIA analysis included the possibility that Kim Jong Un may consider offering to open a Western hamburger franchise in Pyongyang as a show of goodwill, according to three national security officials….
It suggests Kim is interested in a peaceful gesture to an American president whose love of fast-food burgers is well known — and who, during the 2016 campaign, had said he wanted to talk nukes over a burger with the North Korean leader.
It’s not the best sign that this is the kind of concession the North Koreans think Trump would give good value to secure.