+ A

Trump praises North’s missile test site work

July 26,2018
U.S. President Donald Trump praised North Korea’s dismantling of a missile engine testing site on Tuesday despite reports that he had recently been venting his frustrations about the lack of progress in negotiations with Pyongyang.

Trump also said he expects that the North would repatriate “very soon” the remains of American soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, which was one of the pledges laid out in his June 12 joint summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“New images, just today, show that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site,” said Trump, speaking to veterans of foreign wars in Kansas City, Missouri. “We appreciate that.”

Pyongyang appears to be taking down major parts of the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, according to an analysis of satellite imagery by the 38 North website Monday. The dismantling has happened within the past two weeks, the report by the North Korea analysis website pointed out.

Trump recalled asking Kim to repatriate the remains of the U.S. soldiers during their summit, adding that the North Korean leader had told him, “It will be done,” and this made Trump “very happy.”

“I hope that, very soon, these fallen warriors will begin coming home to lay at rest in American soil,” said Trump. “That’s starting the process.”

In the public appearance, he described his June 12 summit in Singapore with Kim as being “a fantastic meeting,” adding, “it seems to be going very well.” Trump said about Kim that he had a “good relationship, good feeling.”

The United States is “pursuing the denuclearization of North Korea and a new future of prosperity, security and peace on the Korean Peninsula and all of Asia,” Trump also said. This was in sharp contrast to his remarks earlier on another nuclear deal, sealed with Iran in 2015, which he pulled out from in May, and called “horrible, one-sided” and a “disaster.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that Pyongyang’s tearing down of the site, if verified, would be “entirely consistent” with what North Korean leader Kim “orally” committed to at his summit with Trump.

“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,” added Pompeo in a press conference in Palo Alto, California, alongside U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne.

Trump, at a news conference in Singapore on June 12, revealed that Kim told him during their summit that North Korea was going to destroy a major missile engine testing site, an action that had not been specified in their joint statement.

North Korea must “completely, fully denuclearize,” Pompeo told reporters. “That’s the steps that Chairman Kim committed to and that the world has demanded through UN Security Council resolutions.”

Pompeo reiterated that Washington will not let up on strict sanctions on Pyongyang, a day after the State Department and other U.S. agencies issued an advisory on the North’s sanctions evasion tactics.

“They understand that the pressure campaign against the DPRK, including the continued enforcement of sanctions, is an imperative for the world to successfully succeed in denuclearizing North Korea,” he continued. DPRK is the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Pompeo said that the United States and Australia “speak with one voice also in calling for a final, fully verified, denuclearized North Korea, as agreed to by Chairman Kim.”

He once more referred to the concept of FFVD, a term coined earlier this month ahead of his visit to Pyongyang. Washington’s customary demand has been for “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization,” or CVID. The CVID terminology has been rejected by Pyongyang.

Defense Secretary James Mattis also stressed, “We will keep the pressure on the regime’s denuclearization through the enforcement of the UN Security Council’s international sanctions.”

When asked if the dismantling of the test site, despite a lack of U.S. inspectors on the ground, is a sign of success, Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the State Department, replied, “Verification is obviously something that is paramount,” adding that the U.S. government “will be looking for” such inspections by “legitimate groups and done by legitimate countries.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]