U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration this week expressed dismay over reports of new activity at North Korean long-range rocket site and research center allegedly used to build long-range missiles capable of targeting the United States mainland, demanding that dictator Kim Jong-un destroy all its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons before receiving any sanctions relief.
The Trump administration’s demand came after satellite images surfaced purportedly showing that the North Koreans had utterly rebuilt the Sohae space launch site they had partially destroyed in an alleged goodwill gesture following the historic denuclearization summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and dictator Kim in June 2018.
Furthermore, Reuters, citing South Korean lawmakers briefed by the country’s spy agency, highlighted the new activity at the Sanumdong-based research center and factory that reportedly produced the rogue regime’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States.
South Korean spy chief Suh Hoon told lawmakers that North Korea “continued to run its uranium enrichment facility at the main Yongbyon nuclear complex after Trump and Kim’s first summit in Singapore last June,” Reuters notes.
President Trump said he was a “little disappointed” about the reports of missile and potential nuclear activity.
However, echoing a senior U.S. Department of State (DOS) official who spoke to reporters about North Korea on condition of anonymity on Thursday, President Trump indicated that despite the new nuclear and missile activity, he is still hoping for a denuclearization agreement that eluded him and Kim at last week’s summit in Vietnam.
The commander-in-chief indicated that time would determine the outcome of his administration’s ongoing efforts to convince Kim to take credible steps towards the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions and security guarantees.
“We’ll let you know in about a year,” Trump told the reporters
Speaking on condition of anonymity on Thursday, the DOS official told reporters about the activity at the Sohae space launch site:
We’re watching in real time, as you are, developments at Sohae and we will definitely be seeking clarification on the purposes of that, and we’ll definitely be continuing to seek the admission of U.S. inspectors to the site to verify the permanent dismantlement and destruction. That’s our operating plan, and we’re going to continue to move forward with that regardless of what we see happening right now. The intent of the North Koreans in this matter is known only to them at this point. We don’t know why they’re taking these step.
“We’re watching closely and we expect them to abide by the commitments that they’ve made to the President of the United States,” the official stressed.
Kim reportedly pledged to dismantle Sohae during his meeting with Trump in Singapore.
Citing a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the New York Times (NYT) reported Thursday, “Sohae was never dismantled, and inspectors were never allowed in.”
The senior Trump administration official cautioned North Korea that a satellite launch from Sohae would violate Kim’s commitments to suspend missile and nuclear testing.
In response to the activity at the research center in Sanumdong, “South Korea’s military said it is carefully monitoring North Korean nuclear and missile facilities,” the Associated Press (AP) reports, adding:
Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo said the U.S. and South Korean militaries are sharing intelligence over the developments at the North’s missile research center in Sanumdong on the outskirts of the capital, Pyongyang, and at a separate long-range rocket site. She did not elaborate on what the developments were.
Trump administration officials have long vowed to keep up economic pressure until the North takes credible steps towards the peninsula’s complete denuclearization.
Despite the new nuclear and missile activity as well as the failure to reach a denuclearization pact during last month’s Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, the State official indicated that the Trump administration believes it can still accomplish its goal of convincing the dictator to abandon his pursuit of atomic weapons by the end of Trump’s first term.
“We still believe this is all achievable within the President’s first term, and that’s the timetable we’re working on,” the official proclaimed, adding, “That’s a little more than a year.”
Although President Trump walked away from negotiations at his high-profile meeting with Kim in Vietnam last month, arguing that the dictator’s concessions on its nuclear program did not merit sanctions relief, the State official said the relationship between the two leaders is “good.”
Trump has favored direct talks with Kim, but the next stage of negotiations is likely to be conducted at lower levels. …The South Koreans have proposed semiofficial three-way talks with the United States and North Korea as it works to put nuclear diplomacy back on track.
“Some analysts think the [new nuclear and missile] work is a signal that Kim is getting ready to conduct more tests, but others suggest he’s just registering his disappointment that no agreement was reached at the summit,” AP points out.