North Korea keeps amassing nuclear material despite promising to denuclearize, report finds

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…As China plays down media reports of selling aircraft carrier to Pakistan***

North Korea might be talking “peace” but behind the scenes, it is making “war” – or at least “war-like “material.

A report recently released by the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford University said in just the past year, Pyongyang has produced enough highly-enriched uranium and plutonium to make five to seven nuclear bombs. That adds to what the center says is an arsenal of 30 warheads.

“North Korea continues to produce nuclear weapons, as well as improving its conventional capabilities,” Brookings Institution’s Jung Pak told Fox News. “Let’s not forget [Kim Jong Un] has promised to do this”

But the report noted that last year’s Singapore summit and a halt to nuclear tests and missile launches by the North has led to “lowered tensions and the threat of war” on the Korean peninsula.

Still, that didn’t stop North Korea from adding material to its nuclear arsenal.

“Despite a reduction in tensions,” Robert Abrams, the head of U.S. military forces in South Korea, “little to no verifiable changes occurred in North Korea’s military capability.

The news comes as Vietnam’s foreign minister was visiting Pyongyang on Tuesday. Hanoi will be the site of the next summit involving President Trump and the Korean leader on February 27 and 28.

“Both sides want to make sure this is a success,” North Korea expert Jung Pak told Fox News. “It depends on what you consider success.”

There are new reports North Korea might allow in UN weapons inspectors to observer the dismantling of a nuclear facility. There is also speculation that the U.S. will make small concessions regarding sanctions.

But the fear is Kim is playing for time.

“If he perceives he has maximum flexibility,” Pak said, “then we’re in for a whole lot of hurt and a lot of painstaking negotiations.”

Experts are somewhat reassured that more legwork is being done to prepare for the upcoming session. U.S. Special Envoy Stephen Beguin is among those reportedly heading to Hanoi again next week to meet with North Korean officials.

President Trump sounded hopeful about the summit in a speech Monday night in El Paso.

“Hopefully, we will do as well with the second summit,” he said, “as we did with the first.”

In the meantime, China on Tuesday played down media reports that Beijing plans to sell its first aircraft carrier ‘Liaoning’ to Pakistan, saying it follows certain principles while exporting its naval ships to other countries.

A Pakistani newspaper on February 10 cited the Chinese and Russian media reports as stating that “the Chinese government has decided to sell its first and only aircraft carrier to Pakistan…For a yet-undetermined price in order to upgrade the Pakistan Navy’s capabilities.”

Such a move will make the Pakistan Navy more competitive against India, which has an operational aircraft carrier, the report said, adding that ‘Liaoning’ will be resold to Pakistan after a “large-scale upgrade.”

When asked for her comment on the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “I have not seen the report you mentioned.”

“But China has always followed principles regarding exports of its naval ships to other countries,” she said, without elaborating.

Earlier report said China, which shares close linkages with the Pakistan military, is currently building four modern naval ships for the Pakistan Navy.

Chinese military experts, however, termed the media report of the sale of the Liaoning to Pakistan as false.

The Chinese government has never disclosed any plan regarding such a deal, state-run Global Times here reported.

It also said that its reporter could not find the Chinese media report regarding the sale cited by the Pakistani newspaper. 

It is a groundless allegation and complete falsehood, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and commentator, told the Global Times.

As China’s first-ever aircraft carrier, the Liaoning acts as both training vessel and combat warship, that there is a zero possibility of reselling it, and China does not have spare carriers to sell to Pakistan, Song noted. 

The Liaoning is the only Chinese aircraft carrier in active service, and the country’s first domestically developed carrier, known as the Type-001 A, is still undergoing sea trials.

Song said that “such reports have no credibility even judging from Pakistan’s perspective, as the country’s navy pursues an onshore defense strategy, which means it does not need a carrier. And its defense budget cannot afford an aircraft carrier or maintain one.

Pakistan’s main focus is to maintain its own strategic nuclear capabilities rather than to promote the improvement of conventional capabilities, especially the improvement of offshore capabilities. (Buying China’s carrier) does not meet the actual needs of Pakistan, Song said.

China is reportedly building a third aircraft carrier.

Although it has been widely speculated that China will have at least five aircraft carriers, including two nuclear-powered ones by 2030-2035, China’s defence ministry has not yet revealed a plan for future carriers, the Global Times said.

Fox News with additional report from Zee News