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 to meet North Korea’s Kim in 2019, wants plan to end arms program: Pence

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference in Singapore, November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

By John Geddie

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday President Donald Trump plans to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2019 and will push for a concrete plan outlining Pyongyang’s moves to end its arms programs.

The United States and North Korea have been discussing a second meeting of their leaders after a June summit in Singapore to lay the groundwork for ending a nuclear standoff between the old foes.

“The plans are ongoing. We believe that the summit will likely occur after the first of the year, but the when and the where of that is still being worked out,” Pence told reporters after meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

In a separate interview with NBC News, Pence said the United States would not require Pyongyang to provide a complete list of nuclear weapons and locations before the second summit but that the meeting must produce a concrete plan.

“I think it will be absolutely imperative in this next summit that we come away with a plan for identifying all of the weapons in question, identifying all the development sites, allowing for inspections of the sites and the plan for dismantling nuclear weapons,” Pence said.

Pence and Moon were meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit hosted by Singapore.

A U.S. think tank said on Monday it had identified at least 13 of an estimated 20 active, undeclared missile bases inside North Korea, underscoring the challenge for American negotiators hoping to persuade Kim to give up his weapons programs.

North Korea had entered into agreements with regional powers in 1994 and in 2005 to dismantle its nuclear program in return for economic benefits and diplomatic rewards, but those deals broke down after Pyongyang clandestinely continued to pursue building weapons of mass destruction.

With scant sign of progress on negotiations since the June summit and recent high-level meetings canceled, Trump said last week he was now in “no rush” but still wanted to meet with Kim for a second time.

“We’re going to keep the pressure on. We’re going to keep the sanctions in place,” Pence told NBC. “President Trump continues to be very hopeful that in that next summit, we’ll come out with a plan for actually implementing and achieving denuclearization.”

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un after they signed documents that acknowledged the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un after they signed documents that acknowledged the progress of the talks and pledge to keep momentum going, after their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

U.S. officials have said sanctions forced North Korea to the negotiating table and vowed to keep pressure until complete denuclearization. But North Korea has credited its nuclear and missile breakthroughs for providing it the standing to meet the world’s biggest powers.

Pence told reporters that Moon agreed to work closely with the United States toward the second U.S.-North Korea summit, as Washington maintains the “maximum pressure” campaign by keeping the sanctions against Pyongyang in place.

Asked if China, which has been the North’s main economic benefactor, was doing enough to maintain sanctions pressure, Pence said Beijing has done more than they have ever done before and Trump was grateful for that.

A U.S. congressional commission said on Wednesday China appeared to have relaxed enforcement of sanctions on North Korea as Pyongyang began to engage with the United States this year.

Trump is expected to speak more about enforcing sanctions when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit late this month and the unique role that China can play in ensuring the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, Pence said.

North Korea has not tested a nuclear device or ballistic missile since last year, and has said it has shuttered its main nuclear test site, with plans to dismantle several more facilities.

But it has warned it could restart its nuclear program if the United States does not drop the sanctions regime.

(Reporting by John Geddie in Singapore; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Bernadette Baum)

North Korea keeps undeclared missile bases up and running: U.S. think tank

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

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – A U.S. think tank said on Monday it had identified at least 13 of an estimated 20 undeclared missile operating bases inside North Korea, underscoring the challenge for American negotiators hoping to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

In reports released by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, researcher Joseph Bermudez said maintenance and minor infrastructure improvements have been observed at some of the sites, despite the ongoing negotiations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to work toward denuclearization at their landmark June summit in Singapore, but the agreement was short on specifics and negotiations have made little headway.

Shortly after that summit, Trump tweeted that “there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

North Korea declared its nuclear force “complete” and halted missile and nuclear bomb testing earlier this year, but U.S. and South Korean negotiators have yet to elicit from Pyongyang a concrete declaration of the size or scope of the weapons programs, or a promise to stop deploying its existing arsenal.

North Korea has said it has closed its Punggye-ri nuclear testing site and the Sohae missile engine test facility. It also raised the possibility of shuttering more sites and allowing international inspections if Washington took “corresponding measures,” of which there has so far been no sign.

Last week, North Korea called off a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, and state media said on Monday the resumption of some small-scale military drills by South Korea and the United States violated a recent agreement aimed at lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The sites identified in the CSIS report are scattered in remote, mountainous areas across North Korea, and could be used to house ballistic missiles of various ranges, with the largest believed to be capable of striking anywhere in the United States.

“Missile operating bases are not launch facilities,” Bermudez wrote. “While missiles could be launched from within them in an emergency, Korean People’s Army (KPA) operational procedures call for missile launchers to disperse from the bases to pre-surveyed or semi-prepared launch sites for operations.”

None of the missile bases have been acknowledged by North Korea, and analysts say an accurate disclosure of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities would be an important part of any denuclearization deal.

Sakkanmol, the site closest to the border with South Korea and its capital Seoul, appears to be “active and being reasonably well-maintained,” the report found.

“North Korea’s decommissioning of the Sohae satellite launch facility, while gaining much media attention, obscures the military threat to U.S. forces and South Korea from this and other undeclared ballistic missile bases,” Bermudez said.

(Reporting by Josh Smith; editing by Darren Schuettler)

U.S. backs disarmament steps along North Korean demilitarized zone: general

General Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the US Forces Korea (USFK) speaks during the mutual repatriation ceremony of soldiers' remains between South Korean and U.S at the Seoul National Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea, 13 July 2018. Jeon Heon-kyun/Pool via REUTERS

By Josh Smith and Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) – The outgoing commander of American troops in South Korea voiced support on Monday for controversial measures to reduce military activity along the border with North Korea, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepared for talks with North Korean officials on denuclearization and plans for a second leaders’ summit.

Writing in a South Korean military publication, U.S. General Vincent Brooks said recent steps by South and North Korea to disarm areas along the so-called demilitarized zone between the two nations have “the support and agreement of the United States.”

Last week a no-fly zone went into effect along the border, despite private concerns by U.S. officials that the move could restrict training and the ability to monitor the border. Other steps included disarming some areas of the border and removing some landmines and guard posts.

“Together, these activities demonstrate a shared commitment to positive action and work to develop the trust essential to the next steps along the road to a lasting and stable peace,” Brooks wrote.

Pompeo previously expressed “discontent” with the deal that created the no-fly zone, which South Korean sources said became a key sticking point for the United States because it would effectively prevent close air support drills.

Brooks’ comments came as U.S. and South Korean marines conducted military drills under the Korean Marine Exchange Program for the first time in months, according to the South Korean ministry of defense.

The exercises were among the training drills indefinitely suspended in June after U.S. President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore and promised to end U.S.-South Korea military exercises.

Although larger exercises were suspended, the two countries have continued small-scale drills, the South’s Ministry of National Defence said on Monday, adding that the marines were holding a training round near the southern city of Pohang.

Pompeo, interviewed on broadcaster CBS’s “Face the Nation” program said on Sunday he would be in New York at the end of this week to meet his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol.

“I expect we’ll make some real progress, including an effort to make sure that the summit between our two leaders can take place, where we can make substantial steps towards denuclearization,” he added.

North Korea has not tested a ballistic missile or nuclear weapon for nearly a year and has said it has shuttered its main nuclear test site and plans to dismantle several more facilities.

In recent weeks, North Korea has pressed harder for what it sees as reciprocal concessions by the United States and other countries.

Over the weekend, Kim hosted President Miguel Diaz-Canel of Cuba – another country under U.S. sanctions – during a lavish visit in Pyongyang, where the two leaders vowed to boost their cooperation.

During a banquet on Sunday, Kim said the “two countries are in the same trench in the struggle for defending sovereignty and dignity of their countries and safeguarding international justice,” according to a state media report.

Diaz-Canel, meanwhile, “voiced his will to meet all challenges by the hostile forces” alongside North Korea, according to the report.

‘NO ECONOMIC RELIEF’

On Friday North Korea warned that it could resume development of its nuclear program if the United States did not drop its campaign of “maximum pressure” and sanctions.

“The improvement of relations and sanctions are incompatible,” a foreign ministry official said in a statement released through state-run KCNA news agency.

“The U.S. thinks that its oft-repeated ‘sanctions and pressure’ lead to ‘denuclearization.’ We cannot help laughing at such a foolish idea.”

South Korea hopes the North and the United States will make “big progress” during the talks set for this week, presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said on Monday, but declined to comment on the North’s Friday statement.

American officials have remained skeptical of Kim’s commitment to give up his nuclear arsenal, however, and Washington says it will not support easing international sanctions until more verified progress is made.

Pompeo, interviewed on television’s “Fox News Sunday,” said the Trump administration wants a full, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, adding that Trump insisted on “no economic relief until we have achieved our ultimate objective.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s continuing efforts to engage with North Korea have fanned U.S. concerns that Seoul could weaken pressure on North Korea to give up nuclear weapons.

In Washington last week, South Korea’s defense minister said the two countries would decide by December on major joint military exercises for 2019. Vigilant Ace, suspended this month, is one of several such exercises halted to encourage dialogue with Pyongyang, which has criticized joint U.S.-South Korea exercises in the past.

The biggest combat-readiness war game ever staged in and around Japan has gone ahead, however, with nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan joining Japanese destroyers and a Canadian warship in the ocean off Japan, another key player in the effort to pressure North Korea.

(Reporting by Josh Smith and Joyce Lee; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington and Soyoung Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Simao)

‘Ashamed and scared’: group details ‘endemic’ sex abuse in North Korea

FILE PHOTO: Residents pass by a painting of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – Sexual abuse by North Korean officials appears to be “endemic”, a watchdog group reported on Thursday, as activists complain the isolated country’s rights record is being ignored as an international push is made to improve relations.

Investigators with U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed more than 100 North Koreans who had left the country – including more than 50 who left since 2011 – and described unwanted sexual contact and violence as “so common that it has come to be accepted as part of ordinary life”.

Gathering information in North Korea is notoriously difficult, and HRW acknowledged its survey was too limited to provide a generalized sample.

But the testimonies paint a picture of sexual abuse – including rape – that is so widespread that many of the women interviewed did not understand that coercive sex should not be an almost every-day occurrence, said one investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the work.

The North Korean delegation to the United Nations in Geneva issued a statement to Reuters in response to the report, “strongly rejecting” the allegations as “trite” and “fictitious”.

“This is yet another futile attempt by some dishonest and hostile forces, who feel uneasy with the ongoing trend toward peace, reconciliation, prosperity and cooperation on the Korean peninsula, to hinder the rapprochement by raising the so-called ‘human rights’ issue of our country with unfounded and fictitious stories,” it said.

The global #MeToo movement has pushed to end sexual abuse, but HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said there appeared to be little progress in North Korea, despite economic reforms and a stated intention to modernize under leader Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian government.

“This is not a regime-threatening issue,” Roth told Reuters. “So that is why it is particularly appalling that the government is not doing anything to prevent sexual abuse by officials.”

Those interviewed described abuse and rape by police, prison guards, and even officials who oversee some of the growing private markets, who exact bribes in the form of sexual favors.

“Ironically, many of the women who are at the center of the economic opening that Kim says he cares about are the most at risk,” Roth said.

“Pervasive” social stigma meant many victims never discuss abuse, the group said.

“I was ashamed and scared,” one woman who said she was raped told HRW investigators. “Everybody would have blamed me.”

The Korea Future Initiative rights group said of North Korea in a March report that “a thinly disguised misogyny pervades all that the government touches, allowing perpetrators to find shelter in its institutions and society’s patriarchal conventions”.

As South Korea and the United States focus on diplomacy with North Korea, rights and defector groups in the South have said they are struggling to raise money and are facing pressure to avoid criticism of North Korea.

U.N. investigators have reported the use of political prison camps, starvation and executions in North Korea, saying security chiefs and possibly even leader Kim himself should face international justice.

Up to 120,000 people are held in political prison camps, the top U.N. North Korea rights official reported last year.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

Two Koreas, U.N. forces agree to remove weapons at border

FILE PHOTO: A North Korean soldier patrols at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 18, 2018. Picture taken on April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North and South Korea and the U.N. Command agreed on Monday to withdraw firearms and guard posts in the demilitarized zone village of Panmunjom this week, Seoul’s defense ministry said, the latest move in a fast-improving relationship.

The three sides held their second round of talks at Panmunjom to discuss ways to demilitarize the border in line with a recent inter-Korean pact reached at last month’s summit in Pyongyang.

The U.S.-led UNC, which has overseen affairs in the DMZ since the end of hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War, was not immediately available for comment, but it said on Friday it supports the two Koreas’ efforts to implement their military deal.

The announcement comes amid U.S. concerns that the inter-Korean military initiative could undermine defense readiness and comes without substantial progress on North Korea’s promised denuclearization.

The neighbors are looking to withdraw 11 guard posts within a 1-km (0.6-mile) radius of the Military Demarcation Line on their border by the end of the year.

They also plan to pull out all firearms from a Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom and cut to 35 each the numbers of personnel stationed there and share information on surveillance equipment.

At Monday’s meeting, the three sides agreed to remove firearms and guard posts from the JSA by Thursday, and carry out a joint inspection over the following two days, the ministry said.

The two Koreas have been removing landmines around the area as part of the agreement and they confirmed the completion of the demining operation at the talks with the UNC.

“We discussed the timeline of the pullout of firearms and guard posts, as well as ways to adjust the number of guard personnel and conduct joint inspections,” the ministry said in a statement.

The agreement also includes a halt in “all hostile acts” and a no-fly zone around the border.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, but relations have improved considerably in the last year.

After his third summit in Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the North was ready to invite international experts to watch the dismantling of a key missile site and would close the main Yongbyon nuclear complex if Washington took reciprocal actions.

Those actions could include putting a formal end to the 1950-53 war, opening of a U.S. liaison office in North Korea, humanitarian aid and an exchange of economic experts, Moon said.

But Washington demands North Korea takes irreversible steps to scrap its arsenal, such as a full disclosure of nuclear facilities and material.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Nick Macfie)

North Korean food supply still precarious as donors stay away, U.N. says

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as children eat during his visit to the Pyongyang Orphanage on International Children's Day in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang

GENEVA (Reuters) – The supply of food remains precarious in North Korea, where one in five children is stunted by malnutrition, the United Nation’s food agency said on Tuesday.

More than 10 million North Koreans, nearly 40 percent of the population, are undernourished and need humanitarian aid, the World Food Programme (WFP) said.

WFP, which provides fortified cereals and enriched biscuits to 650,000 women and children each month, may have to cut its nutrition and health programs again because it lacks funding, WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said.

WFP and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are among only a few aid agencies with access to North Korea, which suffered a famine in the mid-1990s that killed up to 3 million people.

“Despite some improvements this year, humanitarian needs across DPRK remain high with chronic food insecurity and malnutrition widespread,” Verhoosel told a Geneva news briefing.

He was referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name for North Korea.

Some donors and companies, including shipping companies, have been reluctant to fund or to get involved in aid programs for North Korea, although humanitarian work is excluded from sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council on North Korea for its nuclear and missile program, he said.

“We cannot wait for political or diplomatic progress to support a civilian population and to basically work on a humanitarian agenda,” he said.

The United States, the WFP’s largest donor overall, is not among current donors to its program in North Korea, which include France, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, and the Russian Federation, he said.

The WFP, which appealed this year for $52 million for North Korea, needs $15.2 million to fund its programs over the next five months and avoid further cuts to its food assistance, he said.

Critical funding shortfalls meant this year the agency was forced to leave 190,000 children in kindergartens without nutritional support, he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Larry King)

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 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)