General Robert Abrams, the top American commander in South Korea, testified before Congress on Wednesday that North Korea’s recent actions are “inconsistent” with dictator Kim Jong-un’s pledge to dismantle his nuclear missile program.
Gen. Abrams told the House Armed Services Committee that diplomacy with North Korea has “produced a number of nascent confidence-building measures,” including improvements in the security environment along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), less bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang, and greatly improved communications between the two Koreas.
“Current modifications in atmospherics, however, do not represent a substantive change in North Korea’s military posture or readiness,” he said. “The North Korean military remains formidable and dangerous, with no discernable differences in the assessed force structure, readiness, or lethality my predecessor reported in 2018.”
Abrams praised the “hard work of diplomacy” and the results achieved thus far, but said he is “clear-eyed about the fact that little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea’s conventional and asymmetric capabilities that continue to hold the United States, South Korea, and our regional allies at risk.”
Although he was not at liberty to discuss sensitive intelligence assessments of widely reported satellite photos that show North Korea making improvements to its missile test facilities, Abrams said these activities are “inconsistent with denuclearization.”
Abrams stressed the importance of keeping sufficient U.S. military assets in South Korea to carefully monitor the North and respond quickly to provocations.
The Hill noted on Wednesday that several other defense and intelligence officials have testified there are few indications North Korea is seriously pursuing denuclearization, although it has at least halted nuclear warhead detonations and ballistic missile tests. Most of these experts and officials, including Abrams, said they wanted the Trump administration to continue its diplomatic efforts with Pyongyang.
Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver testified before the same House committee as Abrams on Wednesday and said he also has “not seen any progress to speak of” on denuclearization.