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U.S. House wants to stay in the loop on North’s nukes

June 08,2018
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require the Donald Trump administration to provide a detailed report on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to set a “baseline” for progress on negotiations with the Kim Jong-un regime.

Some members of Congress have been worried that Trump might concede too much to Kim when the two leaders meet in Singapore next week, and in turn, Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, and Republican Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, introduced the North Korea Nuclear Baseline Act to help hold Pyongyang to its denuclearization obligations.

The bill would require Defense Secretary James Mattis to convey to congressional national security committees within 60 days of its enactment a report on nuclear capabilities of North Korea “to establish a baseline of progress for negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with respect to denuclearization.” The DPRK refers to North Korea’s official name.

It would also require regular updates, including a verification of North Korea’s denuclearization activities and progress toward dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as the status of its chemical and biological weapons stockpiles, should a deal be struck with Kim.

Congress expects the reports to describe the “location, quantity, capability, and operational status” of the North’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, along with descriptions of its nuclear facilities, including covert ones. The bill also stipulates that a verification assessment report be submitted 180 days afterward, which includes analyzing the capacity of the United States or an international organization, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, to effectively access and investigate suspicious nuclear-related sites in North Korea.

The bill is seen as a move by Congress to have input in denuclearization negotiations with North Korea, which Trump called the “start of a process.”

“Successful negotiation with North Korea requires understanding what the country’s capabilities are now, and implementation of any potential deal requires tough verification that the Kim regime is actually dismantling its weapons,” Engel said. “This bill will establish that baseline and help ensure that we hold Pyongyang to its obligations in any future agreement.”

“As President Trump advances denuclearization negotiations with North Korea, Congress must provide aggressive oversight to ensure North Korea is truly upholding their commitments,” McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]