Tag: Kim Jung Un

U. S. Intelligence Confirms: North Korea Dismantles Nuclear Testing Facility

Praising his “good relationship” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday welcomed reports that Pyongyang has started dismantling a facility seen as a testing ground for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

New satellite imagery shows “that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site, and we appreciate that,” Trump said at an event for military veterans in Kansas City, Missouri.

Hitting back at criticism that his June 12 summit with Kim in Singapore has so far yielded few concrete results, Trump suggested his newfound rapport with Kim was bearing fruit.

“We had a fantastic meeting with Chairman Kim and it seems to be going very well,” Trump said.

After the summit, Trump had declared the North Korean nuclear threat was effectively over, but some US media reports suggest he has been privately furious at the pace of subsequent progress on the denuclearization issue.

US-based website 38 North published imagery Monday indicating Pyongyang has begun taking down a processing building and a rocket-engine test stand that had been used to test liquid-fuel engines at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station.

Sohae, on the northwest coast of North Korea, is ostensibly a facility designed for putting satellites into orbit, but rocket engines are easily repurposed for use in missiles and the international community has labelled Pyongyang’s space program a fig leaf for weapons tests.

38 North analyst Joseph Bermudez called the move an “important first step” for Kim in fulfilling a promise Trump said the North Korean leader had made.

But some experts urged caution and one US defense official played down the news, saying the Sohae site was not a priority in terms of monitoring the North’s denuclearization efforts.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the imagery was “entirely consistent” with commitments Kim made to Trump during their summit in Singapore.

“We’ve been pressing for there to be inspectors on the ground when that engine test facility is dismantled, consistent with Chairman Kim’s commitment,” Pompeo said Tuesday at a news conference in California.

“They need to completely, fully denuclearize. That’s the steps that Chairman Kim committed to and that the world has demanded,” Pompeo added.

– ‘Good feeling’ –

On Tuesday, Trump told the Veterans of Foreign Wars group that he was hopeful the question of repatriating the remains of US troops killed during the Korean War would be addressed shortly.

The long-simmering topic was highlighted in a joint statement signed by Trump and Kim, with the US and North Korea committing to recovering remains, “including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”

“At the very end of our meeting, I said to Chairman Kim — good relationship, good feeling — I said, ‘I would really appreciate if you could do that’,” Trump said.

“He said, ‘It will be done.'”

On June 20, Trump erroneously said 200 human remains had already “been sent back” from North Korea, but the issue is far from resolved and Pyongyang has already canceled at least one meeting to discuss the return of the remains.

We are “working to bring back the remains of your brothers-in-arms who gave their lives in Korea,” Trump said Tuesday.

“I hope that very soon these fallen warriors will begin coming home to lay at rest in American soil.”

In a sign of Washington’s impatience with what it sees as North Korean foot-dragging on the denuclearization issue, Pompeo was in New York last week urging UN member states to keep tough economic sanctions in place to pressure Kim into moving forward.

China and Russia have argued that North Korea should be rewarded with the prospect of eased sanctions for opening up dialogue with the United States and halting missile tests.

South Korea has also pushed ahead with its reconciliation with the North since a landmark inter-Korean summit in April.

Seoul’s defense ministry said Tuesday it was considering withdrawing some troops from the border Demilitarized Zone on a trial basis — a move which could expand into a gradual pullout.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically at war.

The DMZ was designated as a buffer zone, but the areas to the north and south of it are heavily fortified.

More than 35,000 Americans were killed on the Korean peninsula during the war, with 7,700 of these US troops still listed as missing in action — most of them in North Korea.

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North Korean Threat Brings Bold “We’ll see” From President Trump

President Donald Trump sounded a note of caution Wednesday about his much-vaunted summit with Kim Jong Un, saying “we’ll see” after Pyongyang threatened to cancel.

Trump said the US government had not received any official word of a change in plans for the June 12 meeting in Singapore.

“We haven’t been notified at all. We’ll have to see,” Trump said in the Oval Office.

“We haven’t seen anything. We haven’t heard anything. We will see what happens. Whatever it is, it is.”

After weeks of warm words and diplomatic backslapping, Pyongyang abruptly threatened to pull out Tuesday, over US demands for “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

In an angrily worded statement, the North warned “if the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue.”

The statement was attributed to first vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan and carried by state media KCNA.

In that case, he added, Pyongyang would have to “reconsider” its participation at next month’s summit in Singapore.

The first vice foreign minister also tore into Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton for drawing parallels between North Korea and Libya, calling the comparison “absolutely absurd.”

“We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him,” he said of Bolton.

Bolton has pushed the idea of a deal with North Korea like that reached with Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi, who agreed in 2003 to the elimination of his country’s nuclear program and chemical weapons arsenal to gain sanctions relief.

After giving up his atomic program, Kadhafi was killed in 2011 in an uprising backed by NATO bombing.

– A plea from China –

Experts have not been surprised by the sudden about face, expecting bumps in the road as tough issues to be discussed in the meeting come into sharper focus.

Washington is pressing for North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. But so far, the North has given no public indication of what it is offering, beyond a broad commitment to denuclearization of the “Korean peninsula.”

Pyongyang “made clear on several occasions that precondition for denuclearization is to put an end to anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail of the United States,” the North Korean minister said.

In the past, Pyongyang has demanded the withdrawal of US troops stationed in the South, and an end to Washington’s nuclear umbrella over its ally.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally, called for the summit to go ahead.

“The situation on the peninsula has eased up, which is worth cherishing,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

Minister Kim also dismissed offers by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for US economic aid if the North denuclearizes.

“We have never had any expectation of US support in carrying out our economic construction and will not at all make such a deal in future,” he said.

The White House said plans for the summit were moving ahead.

“The president is ready if the meeting takes place. And if it doesn’t, we will continue the maximum pressure campaign that has been ongoing,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

– Tightrope diplomacy –

The North Korean warning follows a weeks-long charm offensive that has seen Kim Jong Un hold a historic summit with the South’s president and meet twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Pyongyang also raised hopes ahead of the US summit by announcing it will destroy its nuclear testing site next week.

Analysts said Pyongyang appeared to be trying to redefine the terms of the debate.

“It’s a diplomatic tactic,” Kim Hyun-wook, professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, told AFP, calling it “brinkmanship to change the US position.”

“It looks like Kim Jong Un was pushed into accepting US demands for ‘denuclearization-first’ but is now trying to change its position after normalizing North Korea-China relations and securing economic assistance,” he added.

“The classic North Korean tightrope diplomacy between the US and China has begun.”

US officials have repeatedly claimed credit for Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy for bringing Pyongyang to the negotiating table.

Joshua Pollack of the Middlebury Institute for International Studies said Pyongyang had been irritated by the “triumphalist tone.”

“The North Koreans aren’t happy with what they’re seeing and hearing,” he said. “There is still a yawning gulf between expectations for diplomacy in Pyongyang and Washington, DC.”

– Thunderstruck –

KCNA also denounced the Max Thunder joint military exercises being held between the US and South Korea as a “rude and wicked provocation,” and Seoul said it had received a message cancelling planned high-level talks “indefinitely.”

The two-week drills started last Friday and involves some 100 aircraft from the two allies, including F-22 stealth fighter jets.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters it had received “no notification” of a position change by North Korea on next month’s meeting.

The exercises were “not provocative” and would continue, she added.

NATO Guardedly Recognizes Historic Korea Meeting’s Significance


NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg hailed Friday’s historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea as “encouraging”, but warned of more challenges ahead.

“This is a first step, it is encouraging, but we have to realise there is still a lot of hard work that lies ahead of us,” Stoltenberg said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met the South’s President Moon Jae-in and agreed to pursue permanent peace and the complete denuclearisation of their divided peninsula.

Stoltenberg said the landmark meeting had come about as a result of the intense political, diplomatic and economic pressure the international community had exerted on Pyongyang.

“The most important thing today is to welcome the fact they have met, and even though there’s a long way to go before we see a full resolution to the crisis and the problems we see on the Korean peninsula, I think this is a very important first step,” the former Norwegian premier said.

 

Photo: NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg