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Questions Remain After North Korea Says It Will Dismantle Nuclear Weapon Fuel Sites


President Trump also said today that he will announce next week exactly where and when he'll meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a second time in late February. Meanwhile, Trump's envoy for North Korea declared in prepared remarks today that Pyongyang has promised to destroy all of its plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities. Here's NPR's David Welna.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: A copy of special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun's speech to a gathering of North Korea experts at Stanford University was released beforehand by the State Department. In it, Biegun says the U.S. seemingly is, quote, "farther away than ever before," unquote, from the goal of what he calls the final fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. And yet Biegun also says Kim Jong Un made a previously undisclosed promise to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October. Kim said North Korea would, if the U.S. took unspecified, quote, "corresponding measures," dismantle and destroy all of its plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities where the fuel for nuclear weapons is made.

MICHAEL GREEN: It is more specificity than Donald Trump got in June, but verification, a declaration - what about the weapons? There are huge questions that it leaves on the table.

WELNA: That's Georgetown University North Korea expert Michael Green. He says those questions include...

GREEN: How would it be verified? Would the North Koreans provide a credible declaration of those facilities and allow inspections to make sure the international community got all of them? That's a big question. The second big question is, what about the plutonium and uranium they have already harvested and weaponized? They may have as many as dozens of nuclear weapons from what they've already done. Is that included? Apparently not, so it would leave the North with a considerable and dangerous arsenal.

WELNA: And that arsenal, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress yesterday, is not likely to be dismantled.


DAN COATS: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities.

WELNA: In today's speech, Special Envoy Biegun warns that the U.S. has what he calls contingencies should the diplomatic process with North Korea fail. David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.