“North Korea's leaders see having a nuclear weapons capability as 'critical to regime survival.' North Korea is not likely to entirely give up nuclear weapons and manufacturing abilities,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said at a Senate hearing on Tuesday. He explained that such views were the outcome of observing certain activities that directly contradict with denuclearization. The heads of CIA and DIA also said that North Korea is concentrating on developing long distance missiles equipped with nuclear weapons, adding that the nuclear capabilities and threats that existed a year ago remain the same.
The warnings come amidst increasing expectations for an agreement between North Korea’s measures of denuclearization and U.S. countermeasures. Such skepticism towards Kim Jong Un’s willingness for denuclearization has surfaced not only from the Congress and expert groups but also from the intelligence agencies at the Trump administration. Leading global news media commented that the views of the U.S. intelligence chiefs run counter to President Trump’s optimistic views that "there has been much progress."
Of course, President Trump would not be entirely optimistic about the second summit. His optimistic remarks are certainly diplomatic rhetoric of expressing trust to the negotiation counterpart. Trump publicly announced the date and location for the June 12 summit one month prior to the meeting, but this time he has not shared details, only hinting that the meeting would take place at the end of February. It could be interpreted as a strategy focus on working level negotiations until key outlines are defined, keeping the possibility of delay or cancellation open.
Still, it is worrisome that there are skeptical views on the possibility of complete denuclearization within the Trump administration. State Secretary Mike Pompeo no longer mentions the final, fully verified denuclearization (FFVD), which is why there are concerns of a "small deal" that tolerates North Korea’s possessions of nuclear weapons by removing the threat of ICBM and freezing nuclear weapons and material. The U.S. and North Korea will commence working level negotiations at Panmunjom early next month. To remove increasing skepticism on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, there should be detailed implementation plans for denuclearization to ensure complete removal of nuclear weapons. If North Korea continues to show slow progress, it will only increase skepticism in Washington and weaken momentum for negotiation.