North Korea’s Kim inspects newly developed ‘tactical’ weapon, releases U.S. prisoner

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a constructions site of Yangdeok, in this undated photo released on October 31, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS/File Photo

By Joyce Lee and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s leader publicly inspected a new weapon for the first time in nearly a year, state media reported on Friday, while it also decided to release a U.S. prisoner, sending conflicting signals at a time of sensitive negotiations.

Kim Jong Un’s visit to the test site of a new “tactical weapon” threatened to sour the diplomatic atmosphere as negotiations between his country and the United States appear to have stalled.

“This result today is a justification of the party’s policy focused on defense science and technology, another display of our rapidly growing defense capabilities to the whole region, and a groundbreaking change in strengthening our military’s combat capabilities,” Kim said.

In Washington, in response to the North Korean announcement, a U.S. State Department spokesman said, “We remain confident that the promises made by President Trump and Chairman Kim will be fulfilled.”

The official was referring to an unprecedented summit in June between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore, where they agreed to work toward denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula and establish new relations.

But the agreement was short on specifics, and negotiations have made little headway since.

In a possibly conciliatory gesture, however, North Korea also announced on Friday it was releasing an American citizen detained since October after “illegally” entering North Korea from China.

North Korea has often held previous American detainees for more extended periods.

‘STEEL WALL’

The military test was successful and the weapon could protect North Korea like a “steel wall”, its KCNA news agency said, adding that Kim had observed “the power of the tactical weapon”.

The only picture released by state media showed Kim standing on a beach surrounded by officials in military uniforms, but no weapons were visible.

International weapons experts said the officials around Kim included a leader of the artillery corps of the Korean People’s Army.

South Korea’s defense ministry said it did not have an immediate comment but was analyzing the North Korean weapon test.

Friday’s understated announcement was more likely aimed at reassuring the North Korean military rather than trying to torpedo diplomatic talks, however, said Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

“North Korea is trying to show its soldiers that they are becoming high-tech and keeping a certain level of military capability while trying to eliminate dissatisfaction and worries inside its military,” he added.

The test may also have been a response to recent joint military drills by the United States and South Korea, which North Korea said violated recent pacts to halt to “all hostile acts”, said Yang Uk, an analyst at the Korea Defence and Security Forum.

Kim said the weapons system tested was one in which his father, Kim Jong Il, had taken a special interest during his life, personally leading its development.

Kim’s last publicized military inspection was the launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Nov. 29 last year, though he engaged in at least eight other military-related activities this year, the South’s Unification Ministry said.

STALLED TALKS

Kim this year declared his nuclear force “complete” and said he would focus on economic development.

North Korea has continued to showcase its conventional military capabilities, including at a large military parade in its capital, Pyongyang, on Sept. 9.

But any testing of new weapons threatens to raise tension with Washington, which has said there will be no easing in international sanctions until North Korea takes more concrete steps to abandon its nuclear weapons or long-range missiles.

North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at Washington’s refusal to ease sanctions and recently threatened to restart development of its nuclear weapons if more concessions were not made.

“They’re trying to signal that they are willing to walk away from talks and restart weapons testing,” said Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists. “It is the most explicit in a series of escalating statements designed to send this message.”

A meeting in New York planned this month between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korea’s Kim Yong Chol, a senior aide to Kim, was postponed.

On Thursday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Trump planned to meet Kim again in 2019 and will push for a concrete plan outlining Pyongyang’s moves to end its arms programs.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Jeongmin Kim in Seoul, and Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Clarence Fernandez)

Trump says next meeting with North Korea’s Kim being set up

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un meet at the start of their summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday plans were being made for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and he thinks “incredible” progress has been made in U.S. talks with the long-isolated country.

“Well it is happening and we’re setting that up right now,” Trump told reporters at the White House after announcing the resignation of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had very good talks with Kim over the weekend and that three or four locations were being considered for the two leaders’ next summit. “Timing won’t be too far away,” he said.

Trump and Kim held a historic first summit in Singapore on June 12 at which Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. However, his actions have fallen short of Washington’s demands for a complete inventory of its weapons and facilities and irreversible steps to give up its arsenal.

Still, Trump was upbeat on progress made so far.

“You got no rockets flying, you have no missiles flying, you have no nuclear testing,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “We’ve made incredible progress – beyond incredible.

“But I have agreed to meet,” he said. “We have a very good relationship with Chairman Kim. I like him, he likes me, the relationship is good.”

Pompeo said on Monday the two sides were “pretty close” to agreeing on details for a second summit.

Pompeo told reporters Kim had said he was ready to allow international inspectors into North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear testing site and the Sohae missile engine test facility as soon as the United States and North Korea agreed on logistics.

However, experts questioned what Pompeo had achieved on Sunday on his fourth visit to Pyongyang this year. They said the North Korean leader appeared simply to be repackaging and dragging out past pledges.

Trump noted that the United States has not lifted the “very big sanctions” it has imposed on Pyongyang.

“I’d love to remove them, but we have to get something for doing it,” Trump said.

North Korea is very interested in reaching some sort of agreement on denuclearization so that it can grow economically with the benefit of the foreign investment closed to it now, Trump said.

The U.N. World Food Program said on Tuesday that the supply of food remains precarious in North Korea, where one in five children is stunted by malnutrition. More than 10 million North Koreans, nearly 40 percent of the population, are undernourished and need humanitarian aid, it said.

“I will tell you they’re calling, wanting to go there and wanting to invest,” Trump said. “At some point, when Chairman Kim makes that decision, I think he’s going to unleash something that’s going to be spectacular, really spectacular.

“And I think he knows it and I think that’s one of the reasons that we’re having very successful conversations.”

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Lambert, Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis)

U.S.’s Pompeo says Trump-Kim summit more likely after October: CBS

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk after lunch at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday officials were laying the groundwork for the next summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but any meeting would likely occur after October.

“We’re working diligently to make sure we get the conditions right so that we can accomplish as much as possible during the summit. But we hope it will be soon,” Pompeo said in an interview with “CBS This Morning.”

“It may happen in October but more likely sometime after that.”

Trump held an unprecedented summit with Kim in Singapore in June that yielded a broad pledge by Kim to “work toward” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Kim’s commitments and actions, however, have fallen far short of Washington’s demands for a complete inventory of North Korea’s weapons programs and irreversible steps to give up a nuclear arsenal that potentially threatens the United States.

“It will take a while; there will be a process to this,” Pompeo said. “President Trump’s been clear about that and clear-eyed about that since the very beginning.”

Asked if Kim had agreed to allow international inspectors into nuclear sites, Pompeo said, “Yes.”

He did not, though, comment on whether any U.S. or international inspectors had been allowed into nuclear sites in the reclusive communist country but said verification was important in any nuclear agreement.

“We’ve talked about this verification from the beginning,” he told CBS. “We’re not going to buy a pig in a poke. We’re going to get this right. We’re going to deliver on this commitment (to denuclearize) that Chairman Kim has made to the world.”

Pompeo said he would be going to Pyongyang soon but did not give a date.

 

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Trump says expects announcement of new summit with North Korea’s Kim ‘pretty soon’

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Jeff Mason and David Brunnstrom

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he expected a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be announced “pretty soon” but that the location had yet to be determined.

Trump, during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the United Nations, said: “Chairman Kim has been really very open and terrific, frankly. I think he wants to see something happen.”

Moon met with Kim for a third time last week. He said brought Trump a personal message from the North Korean leader saying he was hoping to meet with the U.S. president again soon.

Trump and Kim met for an unprecedented summit on June 12, and Trump has been keen on a second meeting, even though some U.S. officials and most analysts say Pyongyang has yet to show it is prepared to give up a nuclear arsenal that threatens the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news briefing earlier on Monday he hoped to travel back to North Korea before the end of the year to make final preparations for a second summit, which he said he was “confident” would happen.

“I expect I’ll be traveling to Pyongyang before too long,” he said.

Asked if that would be before the end of the year, he replied: “Yes. Lord willing, I’ll be traveling before the end of the year.”

Pompeo said he was optimistic that Kim would deliver on his pledge to denuclearize, but this would take time.

“We’re bringing the two senior leaders, the individuals who can actually make the decisions that will move this process forward, bring them together so we can continue to make progress towards what the U.N. Security Council has demanded and what Chairman Kim has promised he would do.

“That’s the effort. There remains work to be done. There will be some time before we get to complete denuclearization for sure.”

At last week’s meeting with Moon, Kim promised to dismantle a missile site and also a nuclear complex – if the United States took “corresponding action.”

However, while appearing to set a positive tone, the commitments fell far short of Washington’s demands for a complete inventory of North Korea’s weapons programs and irreversible steps toward denuclearization.

The mood though is sharply changed from that at last year’s U.N. General Assembly, when Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and mocked the North Korean leader as “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission.”

North Korea’s representative to the meeting, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, responded to Trump’s U.N. remarks last year by calling them “the sound of a dog barking” and warning that North Korea could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.

Pompeo has proposed a meeting with Ri at the General Assembly this week. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said last week the two had agreed to meet but said the meeting could take place later.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Brunnstrom; additional reporting by David Alexander and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Doina Chiacu and James Dalgleish)

Trump releases first two names of U.S. war dead handed over by North Korea

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Marine stands as caskets containing the remains of American servicemen from the Korean War handed over by North Korea arrive at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump released the names on Thursday of two Army soldiers killed in the 1950-1953 Korean War whose remains were handed over by North Korea this year in a goodwill gesture.

Trump said the first remains identified by the U.S. military belonged to Army Master Sergeant Charles H. McDaniel, 32, of Vernon, Indiana, and Army Private First Class William H. Jones, 19, of Nash County, North Carolina.

“These HEROES are home, they may Rest In Peace, and hopefully their families can have closure,” Trump said in his Twitter post.

North Korea handed over 55 boxes containing the remains of war dead in July, fulfilling a pledge by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his June summit with the U.S. president in Singapore.

The remains, which were repatriated to Hawaii on Aug. 1, included only one “dog tag,” a form of identification in the U.S. military.

The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) said earlier this month it had identified the first two American troops from the boxes of remains, but declined to name them publicly, saying their relatives would be notified first.

On Thursday, the DPAA said it was hoping to speak next month with the North Korean military about resuming field operations inside North Korea to find remains of U.S. service members.

“We have communicated, through the DPRK mission to the U.N., an invitation to sit down with them to negotiate the resumption of field operations inside North Korea that would commence in the spring of 2019,” Kelly McKeague, director of the DPAA, told Reuters.

McKeague said North Korea had not yet accepted the invitation.

More than 7,700 U.S. troops remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.

The United States and North Korea worked together on joint field activities to recover remains from 1996 to 2005, until Washington halted operations, expressing concerns about the safety of its personnel.

The Trump administration has hailed the handover of the remains as evidence of the success of Trump’s summit with Kim.

The administration said on Wednesday it was ready to resume talks with North Korea after Pyongyang pledged to dismantle key missile facilities and suggested it would close its main Yongbyon nuclear complex in exchange for unspecified action by Washington.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and David Alexander; Editing by G Crosse and Peter Cooney)

U.S. ready to resume North Korea talks, seeks denuclearization by 2021

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose for photographs on the top of Mt. Paektu, North Korea September 20, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS

By Lesley Wroughton and Hyonhee Shin

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States said it was ready to resume talks with North Korea after Pyongyang pledged on Wednesday to dismantle its key missile facilities and suggested it would close its main Yongbyon nuclear complex if Washington took unspecified actions.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had invited North Korea’s foreign minister to meet in New York next week, with the aim of completing its denuclearization by January 2021, after a Pyongyang summit between the leaders of the two Koreas.

The United States appeared eager to seize on commitments by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at his talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in even as critics said the steps did little to put Pyongyang on a course for irreversible denuclearization.

North Korea will allow experts from “concerned countries” to watch the closure of its missile engine testing site and launch pad at Tongchang-ri, Moon said at a joint news conference with Kim after their meeting in the North Korean capital.

North Korea will also take additional steps such as closing its main Yongbyon nuclear complex if the United States undertook unspecified reciprocal measures, Moon added.

The sudden revival of diplomacy followed weeks of doubts in U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration’s about whether North Korea was willing to negotiate in good faith after a June summit between Trump and Kim yielded few tangible results.

The January 2021 completion date was the most specific deadline set in what is expected to be a long process of trying to get the North to end its nuclear program, which may threaten U.S. allies South Korea and Japan as well as the U.S. homeland.

In addition to inviting North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho to meet when both are in New York next week for the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders, Pompeo said Washington invited Pyongyang’s representatives to meet the U.S. special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, in Vienna at the “earliest opportunity.”

China, North Korea’s most important economic backer and diplomatic ally, said it warmly welcomed the agreement reached in Pyongyang and strongly supported it.

“We absolutely cannot let this hard to come by opportunity for peace slip away once again,” the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said in a statement.

SKEPTICISM

Some U.S. officials were deeply skeptical. Speaking before Pompeo’s announcement, two senior U.S. officials involved in U.S.-North Korea policy voiced fears Kim was trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.

At the summit, the two Koreas agreed on plans to resume economic cooperation, including working to reconnect rail and road links. They agreed as well to restart a joint factory park in a border city of Kaesong and tours to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort when conditions are met.

U.S. officials suggested Kim was trying to ease the economic pressure on him to curb his nuclear programs and to undercut the rationale for U.S. troops being based in South Korea by improving relations with Seoul.

The United States has some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea to deter North Korean attack. Pyongyang has long sought their withdrawal and Trump has questioned their rationale and cost.

“There is nothing the North has offered so far that would constitute irreversible movement toward denuclearization, however you define that, by January 2021 or any other time, or even a reduction of the military threat it poses to the South and the region,” said a U.S. intelligence official.

“Everything that’s out there now is conditional on U.S. actions that would reduce the pressure on the North to cooperate or (is) filled with loopholes and exit ramps,” added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

U.S. officials said the ambiguity about what Washington was supposed to do for the North to close its nuclear complex at Yongbyon gave Kim room to argue that Washington had not done enough for North Korea to follow through on its pledges.

TRUMP: ‘HE’S CALM, I’M CALM’

Even if North Korea were to shut down Yongbyon, officials and experts believe it has other secret nuclear facilities.

South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, said the reciprocal U.S. steps could include an end-of-war declaration. South Korea and the United States remain technically at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice and not a peace treaty.

Though Wednesday’s inter-Korean agreement failed to stipulate the North’s commitment to declare nuclear and missile facilities for inspection and eventual decommissioning, Seoul has been in talks with both Pyongyang and Washington over the issue, a senior South Korean official said.

“What North Korea really wants and their priorities may be different from ours,” the official told reporters on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

“We’re talking about a package that would carry many elements, including the declaration of the facilities, Yongbyon and Tongchang-ri, which are of U.S. interest, and from the Northside, the issues of normalizing relations, ending the war and easing sanctions.”

Despite the doubts of U.S. officials and outside analysts, North Korea’s pledge at the summit with the South Korean president drew an enthusiastic response from Trump.

Speaking before Pompeo’s comments, Trump‏ welcomed Kim’s pledges, calling them part of “tremendous progress” with Pyongyang on a number of fronts, and hailing “very good news” from the summit between the Koreas.

“He’s calm, I’m calm – so we’ll see what happens,” Trump, who last year threatened to destroy North Korea, told reporters.

‘THEATRICAL PROMISES’

Kim pledged to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” during two meetings with Moon earlier this year and at his summit with Trump.

But discussions over how to implement the vague commitments have since faltered and North Korea has consistently refused to give up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally.

Washington has demanded concrete action, such as a full disclosure of North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities, before agreeing to Pyongyang’s key goals, including an easing of international sanctions and an official end to the Korean War.

While North Korea has stopped nuclear and missile tests in the past year, it did not allow international inspections of its dismantling of its Punggye-ri nuclear test site in May, drawing criticism that its action was for show and could be reversed.

The day after the June 12 Trump-Kim summit, Pompeo said he hoped to achieve “major disarmament” by North Korea by the end of Trump’s first term in January 2021.

His latest statement that the process “should be completed by January 2021” may be a signal Washington will not wait forever.

“The statement clearly implies that inter-Korean summits and theatrical promises to dismantle the odd facility simply can’t substitute for a negotiating process on the nuclear issue,” said the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Daniel Russel.

“Invoking the end of Trump’s term in January 2021 is another way of saying to the North that American patience is not unlimited and that Kim Jong Un won’t be able to sidestep denuclearization indefinitely,” Russel added.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Additional reporting by Joyce Lee, Soyoung Kim and Joint Press Corps, Jeongmin Kim, Haejin Choi and Ju-min Park in Seoul, Ben Blanchard and Zhang Min in Beijing, and Roberta Rampton, David Brunnstrom and John Walcott in Washington; Writing by Yara Bayoumy and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by David Gregorio, Peter Cooney and Lincoln Feast.)

North Korea’s Kim agrees to inspections in bid to salvage nuclear talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after signing the joint statement in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 19, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS

By Hyonhee Shin and Soyoung Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Wednesday it would permanently abolish its key missile facilities in the presence of foreign experts, in a new gesture by leader Kim Jong Un to revive faltering talks with Washington over his country’s nuclear program.

After a summit in Pyongyang, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the North was also willing to close its main nuclear complex but only if the United States took unspecified reciprocal action.

The pledges Kim and Moon made at their third summit this year could inject fresh momentum into the stalled nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang and lay the groundwork for another meeting Kim recently proposed to U.S. President Donald Trump.

“I don’t think President Moon got everything he was seeking from these interactions, but Kim Jong Un gave Moon some tangible things for which he can take credit,” said Michael Madden, an analyst at the Stimson Centre’s 38 North think tank in Washington.

“These are good-faith gestures which will likely facilitate further and more substantive negotiations,” Madden said, adding a second summit between Kim and Trump was “highly probable”.

Kim pledged to work toward the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” during his two meetings with Moon earlier this year and at his historic June summit with Trump in Singapore.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends an unveiling ceremony of the commemorative tree in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 19, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS

South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends an unveiling ceremony of the commemorative tree in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 19, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS

But discussions over how to implement the vague commitments have since faltered. Washington is demanding concrete action towards denuclearization, such as a full disclosure of North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities, before agreeing to key goals of Pyongyang – declaring an official end to the 1950-53 Korean War and easing tough international sanctions.

Trump‏ welcomed the latest pledges, saying they were part of “tremendous progress” with Pyongyang on a number of fronts, and hailed the “very good news” from the Korean nations’ summit.

“He’s calm, I’m calm – so we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to Kim. “It’s very much calmed down.”

But the United States is likely to be concerned economic cooperation plans announced by the two Korean leaders that could undermine U.S.-driven United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Pyongyang, the two Korean leaders agreed to turn the Korean peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats.”

Kim said he would visit Seoul in the near future, in what would be the first-ever visit to South Korean capital by a North Korean leader. Moon said the visit was expected to take place by the end of the year.

The leaders also announced a series of steps to deepen bilateral exchanges in the economy, culture and sport.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, first lady Kim Jung-sook, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju visit Taedong River Seafood Restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 19, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, first lady Kim Jung-sook, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju visit Taedong River Seafood Restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 19, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS

VERIFICATION

Kim’s latest promises come days before Moon meets Trump in New York at the U.N. General Assembly next week. South Korean officials hope Moon will be able to convince Trump to restart nuclear talks with Pyongyang, after he canceled a trip by his secretary of state to North Korea last month, citing lack of progress.

Though North Korea has unilaterally stopped nuclear and missile tests, it did not allow international inspections of the dismantling its main nuclear test site in May, drawing criticism that its action was for show and could be easily reversed.

As a next step, North Korea will allow experts from “concerned countries” to watch the closure of its missile engine testing site and launch pad in the northwestern town of Dongchang-ri, according to a joint statement signed by Moon and Kim.

The facilities were a key test center for North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to reach the United States.

The North also “expressed its readiness” to take additional measures, such as a permanent dismantlement of its main nuclear facilities in Yongbyon should there be unspecified corresponding action from the United States, according to the statement.

Those U.S. steps could include an end-of-war declaration, South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters.

The neighbors remain technically at war because the Korean War ended in armistice and not a peace treaty.

North Korea has consistently refused to give up its nuclear arsenal unilaterally, and stressed that the United States should first agree to a formal declaration ending the war.

Satellite images and other evidence in recent months have suggested North Korea is continuing to work on its nuclear program clandestinely.

Seo Yu-suk, a research manager at the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the facilities at Dongchang-ri and Yongbyon were “almost obsolete” and the North has mobile missile launchers that are easier to use and harder to detect, while there are likely covert sites elsewhere.

SANCTIONS BUSTING?

At the summit, the two Koreas agreed to begin construction to reconnect railways and roads linking the countries within this year. They will also work to restart a joint factory park in the North border city of Kaesong and tours to the North’s Mount Kumgang resort, when conditions are met.

Some experts worry those projects could constitute a violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at drying up resources for Pyongyang’s weapons programs, and upset Washington.

The two Koreas also agreed to pursue a bid to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympic Games, and actively work together in other international competitions including the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Later on Wednesday, Moon was scheduled to watch the North’s signature “Brilliant Fatherland” Mass Game, with a formation of glowing drones, lasers and stadium-sized gymnastics shows designed to glorify the country.

On Thursday, the last day of his three-day visit, Moon plans to visit Mount Baektu in North Korea with Kim before returning home.

North Korea says Kim’s grandfather and father were born at Mount Baektu, a centerpiece of the North’s idolization and propaganda campaign to highlight the ruling family’s sacred bloodline.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Joyce Lee, Soyoung Kim and Joint Press Corps; Additional reporting by Jeongmin Kim, Haejin Choi and Ju-min Park in Seoul, and Roberta Rampton and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Alex Richardson and Alistair Bell)

North Korea’s Kim says summit with Trump stabilized region, sees more progress

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wave during a car parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 18, 2018. Pyeongyang Press Corps/Pool via REUTERS

By Hyonhee Shin and Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Tuesday his “historic” summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore stabilized regional security, and that he expected further progress at an inter-Korean summit aimed at reviving stalled nuclear diplomacy.

Kim thanked South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in for bringing about the Singapore meeting in June as the two leaders began their third round of talks in Pyongyang.

“Thanks to that, the political situation in the region has stabilized and I expect more advanced results,” Kim told Moon, referring to the Singapore gathering, at the start of their talks.

The Kim-Moon summit will be a litmus test for another meeting Kim has recently proposed to Trump, with the South Korean president seeking to engineer a proposal that combines a framework for the North’s denuclearization and a joint declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

Moon expressed gratitude for Kim’s “bold decision to open a new era”.

The first session of the talks, which lasted for two hours, were held at the headquarters of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, with party vice chairman Kim Yong Chol and Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong, as well as South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and spy chief Suh Hoon in attendance.

LIMOUSINE PARADE

Earlier, the leaders paraded down the streets of Pyongyang in Kim’s black Mercedes limousine to loud cheers from nearly 100,000 North Koreans who waved flowers and chanted “Motherland!Unification!”

Kim greeted Moon with hugs and handshakes as the South Korean leader landed in the North’s capital with a mission to rekindle momentum in faltering talks between Washington and Pyongyang over denuclearization and a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.

As Kim escorted Moon to the Paekhwawon State Guest House, where Moon will stay during his three-day visit, Kim said he wanted to produce a “bigger outcome at a faster pace” than the two leaders have achieved so far.

Moon, himself the offspring of a family displaced by the war, has met Kim twice this year at the border village of Panmunjom.

“You Mr. President are traveling all around the world, but our country is humble compared with developed nations,” Kim told Moon. “I’ve been waiting and waiting for today. The level of the accommodation and schedule we provide may be low, but it’s our best sincerity and heart.”

Moon said it was “time to bear fruit” and thanked Kim for his hospitality, which included a massive welcome ceremony at Pyongyang International Airport featuring a large, goose-stepping honor guard and a military band.

During their motor parade through Pyongyang’s landmark Ryomyong Street, a new residential district launched last year under Kim’s initiative to modernize the city, Kim and Moon briefly stepped out of the vehicle to greet and take flowers from members of the crowd.

“CHIEF NEGOTIATOR”

Trump has asked Moon to be “chief negotiator” between himself and Kim, according to Moon’s aides, after Trump canceled a trip to Pyongyang by his secretary of state last month.

Washington wants to see concrete action toward denuclearization by North Korea before agreeing to a key goal of Pyongyang – declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.

The conflict ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving U.S.-led U.N. forces including South Korea technically still at war with the North.

South Korea is pinning high hopes on Kim’s remarks to Moon’s special envoys earlier this month that he wants to achieve denuclearization within Trump’s first term in office ending in early 2021.

“If North Korea-U.S. dialogue is restarted after this visit, it would have much significance in itself,” Moon said before his departure.

Underscoring the challenges ahead, North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun said on Tuesday “the responsibility falls squarely on the United States” for the stalled nuclear discussions.

“It is due to its nonsensical, irrational stubbornness that other issues can only be discussed after our country has completely verifiably, irreversibly dismantled our nuclear capabilities… without showing the intention to build trust including declaring the end of war,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

On Wednesday, Moon and Kim plan to hold a second day of official talks after which they are expected to unveil a joint statement, and a separate military pact designed to defuse tensions and prevent armed clashes. Moon will return home early Thursday.

Traveling with Moon are South Korean business tycoons, including Samsung scion Jay Y. Lee and the chiefs of SK Group and LG Group. They met North Korean Deputy Prime Minister Ri Ryong Nam, who is in charge of economic affairs, although Seoul officials said they did not expect any specific joint economic projects to be agreed given extensive international sanctions.

The United States is pressing other countries to strictly observe U.N. sanctions aimed at choking off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

North Korea says it has destroyed its main nuclear and missile engine test site and has halted atomic and ballistic missile tests, but U.S. officials and analysts believe it is continuing to work on its weapons plans covertly.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Russia on Monday of “cheating” on U.N. sanctions on North Korea.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Joyce Lee, Soyoung Kim and Pyongyang Press Corps; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Alex Richardson)

North Korea’s Kim sets denuclearization time line, prompting thanks from Trump

Chief of the national security office at Seoul's presidential Blue House Chung Eui-yong meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea September 5, 2018. Picture taken September 5, 2018. The Presidential Blue House/Handout via REUTERS 


By Hyonhee Shin and Susan Heavey

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has given his first timeline for denuclearization, aiming for the end of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term, Seoul officials said on Thursday, prompting thanks from Trump who said they would “get it done together”.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will also meet in Pyongyang on Sept. 18-20 for a third summit and discuss “practical measures” toward denuclearization, Moon’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, said a day after meeting Kim.

The summit could provide renewed momentum to talks over denuclearization between North Korea and the United States, after Trump canceled a visit to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month citing lack of progress.

Kim told South Korean officials his faith in Trump was “unchanged” and that he wanted denuclearization and an end to hostile relations with the United States before Trump’s first term in office ends in early 2021, Chung said.

“He particularly emphasized that he has never said anything negative about President Trump,” Chung said.

Trump welcomed Kim’s remarks in a trademark Tweet.

“Kim Jong Un of North Korea proclaims ‘unwavering faith in President Trump.’ Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will get it done together!” Trump wrote.

In previous, failed talks, North Korea has said it could consider giving up its nuclear program if the United States provided security guarantees by removing troops from South Korea and withdrawing its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from the South and Japan.

U.S. officials involved in the latest negotiations have said North Korea has refused to even start discussions about defining denuclearization or other key terms such as “verifiable” and “irreversible”, and has insisted the United States must first agree to simultaneous steps to reduce economic pressure.

Pompeo, visiting New Delhi, declined to discuss the next steps but said there was a long road ahead in the denuclearization process.

Pompeo visited Pyongyang in July, after which North Korea accused him of making “unilateral and gangster-like demands for denuclearization” while showing little interest in ending the war.

“It is the case that there is still an enormous amount of work to do,” Pompeo told a news conference on Thursday.

Asked about U.S. intelligence that North Korea was still advancing its weapons programs, Pompeo noted that Pyongyang had ceased its nuclear tests and test-firing missiles, “which we consider a good thing.

“But the work of convincing Chairman Kim to make this strategic shift that we’ve talked about for a brighter future for the people of North Korea continues,” Pompeo said.

Moon’s national security adviser Chung said Kim had stressed the need for the United States to reciprocate North Korea’s initial moves, which have included dismantling a nuclear test site and a missile engine facility.

The U.S. embassy in Seoul said it had no information to share on the matter.

FRUSTRATION

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said Kim told the South’s envoys that his “fixed stand” was to turn the Korean peninsula into “a cradle of peace without nuclear weapons, free from nuclear threat”.

Chung said Kim showed “frustration over the doubt raised by some parts of the international community about his willingness to denuclearize, and asked us to convey his message to the United States”.

“He said he would appreciate that such good faith is accepted with good faith,” Chung said. “He expressed his strong will to carry out more proactive measures toward denuclearization if action is taken in response to the North’s preemptive steps.”

U.S. officials have previously said they have already made concessions, such as halting joint military exercises with South Korea.

During his meeting with Kim, Chung delivered a message from Trump and will relay comments from Kim to U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, Moon’s spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, told reporters.

Trump spoke to Moon on the evening before Chung’s trip and asked Moon to act as “chief negotiator” between Washington and Pyongyang, the spokesman said.

WHAT HAPPENS FIRST?

Kim and Trump held a landmark summit in Singapore in June, in which they agreed to work toward complete denuclearization. But negotiations have made little progress, while signs North Korea has maintained work on its weapons have emerged.

Under discussion is whether denuclearization or declaring an end to the 1950-53 Korean War should come first.

The war ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, meaning U.S.-led U.N. forces, including South Korea, are technically still at war with the North.

“The United States shouldn’t delay any further an end-of-war declaration, which the U.S. president promised at the Singapore summit,” the North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an editorial.

U.S. officials have said such a declaration could weaken North Korea’s incentive for denuclearization, and create uncertainty about the purpose of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the three-year war.

“Looks like Kim is trying to wash away worries that talks could stall or fail, knowing well that Washington is losing patience,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean Studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

“Kim also made it clear that he needs some kind of proof Trump has abandoned the U.S.’s hostile policy before moving toward denuclearization. Kim is trying to prove his sincerity.”

(Additional reporting by Cynthia Kim Joyce Lee in SEOUL John Walcott and Susan Heavey in WASHINGTON and Phil Stewart in NEW DELHI; Writing by Soyoung Kim; Editing by Chris Cushing and Nick Macfie)

Images indicate North Korea halted dismantling of launch site: think tank

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju give field guidance at construction sites in Samjiyon County, North Korea, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 18, 2018. KCNA via REUTER

By David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Satellite photos from last week indicate North Korea halted work to dismantle a missile engine test site in the first part of August, in spite of a promise to U.S. President Donald Trump at a June summit, a Washington think tank reported on Wednesday.

The 38 North project said commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station taken on Aug. 16 indicated “no significant dismantlement activity” at either the site’s engine test stand or launch pad since Aug. 3.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that reports that North Korea had started dismantling facilities at Sohae were consistent with a commitment North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made at a summit with Trump in Singapore on June 12.

The 38 North report said significant progress in tearing down the test stand had been made from July to early August, but added: “The components previously removed remain stacked on the ground.”

It said work to take down a rail-mounted transfer/processing building at the launch pad also appeared to have stalled and it was not clear if the work that had taken place on that was associated with dismantling or modification of the structure.

The 38 North report comes at a time of widespread doubts about North Korea’s willingness to go along with U.S. demands for it to give up its nuclear weapons.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a report on Monday that it had not found any indication that North Korea had stopped its nuclear activities.

In Singapore, Kim agreed in broad terms to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula but he has given no sign he is willing to give up his arsenal unilaterally.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump defended his efforts to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, saying he believed North Korea had taken specific steps toward denuclearization. He said he would “most likely” meet again with Kim.

However, several members of the U.S. negotiating team said they had seen no progress toward denuclearization and no sign that North Korea was prepared to negotiate seriously until the United States promised relief from sanctions in return.

North Korea state media last week blamed lack of progress in talks since the summit on members of the U.S. negotiating team and said breaking the deadlock would demand “a bold decision on the part of President Trump.” A commentary in its Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Saturday said those opposed to dialogue were seeking to derail talks by making baseless references to “secret nuclear facilities” in North Korea.

U.S. officials have been trying to persuade North Korea to declare the extent of its weapons programs, something Pyongyang had always refused to do in past failed rounds of talks.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said this month that Pyongyang had not taken the necessary steps to denuclearize while U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington was “not willing to wait for too long.”

Bolton said Trump, in a letter to Kim, had proposed sending Pompeo back to North Korea for what would be his fourth visit this year and that the president was ready to meet with Kim again at any time.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)