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Trump tells North Korea: ‘Get rid of the nukes’

Aug 24,2018
U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday North Korea must “get rid of the nukes” before seeing any relief from international sanctions, making clear that he’s waiting for more tangible actions on denuclearization.

Speaking at a rally in West Virginia, Trump said he wanted to take the “massive sanctions” imposed on the North for its nuclear and long-range missile tests and launches “off quickly,” but emphasized Pyongyang must take denuclearization steps first.

“Can I be honest? I haven’t taken off the sanctions. We have massive sanctions,” said the former real estate mogul before cheering crowds. “I want to take them off quickly. But they have got to get rid of the nukes. Got to get rid of the nukes,” stressed Trump.

Trump’s remarks jibed with the U.S. government’s decision on Tuesday to slap sanctions on two Russian shipping companies and six Russian vessels for under-the-table dealings with North Korea in violation of UN sanctions.

They were the third sanctions imposed on Russian entities this month for helping the North get around sanctions on its imports and are seen as a display of the Trump administration’s determination not to lift restrictions unless Pyongyang takes tangible steps toward denuclearization.

Boasting of his North Korea policy achievements this year, Trump said at the rally “there has been no rocket launches” and “no nuclear tests” by the North since November 2017. “We got the hostages back,” he said, referring to the three Americans who had been detained in North Korea for over a year before being released by the North and returned home in May accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

He criticized his predecessor saying, “President Obama was unable to do anything with North Korea.”

Trump said he had a “good relationship with Chairman Kim,” referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“I got along well with Kim Jong-un. Really well,” said Trump.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump said it is the “great chemistry” between him and Kim that kept the U.S.-North denuclearization talks from falling apart.

He also said in the interview he would “most likely” have a second summit with Kim, but declined to go into details such as a possible venue, date or pre-conditions for such a meeting to take place.

Since his June 12 summit with Kim in Singapore, Trump has talked positively about him and expressed faith in Kim’s pledge of denuclearization.

Commenting on North Korea’s returning of remains of U.S. service members killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, which was another point in the joint Singapore agreement, Trump tweeted, “I am not at all surprised that you took this kind action” referring to Kim, adding, “I look forward to seeing you soon!”

While the United States and the North are engaged in behind-the-scenes talks to come closer on specific denuclearization steps and American rewards in return with Pompeo’s expected visit to Pyongyang soon, 38 North, a North Korea analysis website, reported Wednesday that “no significant dismantlement activity has taken place” at the North’s Sohae missile engine test site since Aug. 3, based on commercial satellite imagery from Aug. 16.

The website reported that “no new dismantlement activity is apparent since August 3” while facility “components removed remain stacked on the ground.”

The report came after an earlier assessment by 38 North on July 23 that the North had torn down significant parts of the missile facility in July, which raised expectations that the North was making another symbolic gesture toward denuclearization.

On Chinese President Xi Jinping’s expected visit to Pyongyang, which will be his first since taking power in 2013, Tokyo-based broadcaster NHK reported Thursday that Xi would make the trip on Sept. 9, the North’s 70th founding anniversary for which the Kim regime is preparing a massive parade, citing unnamed sources.

While reports of Xi’s expected visit have been made in recent days, Beijing has yet to confirm Xi’s trip and summit with Kim.

If made, it will be Xi’s fourth summit with Kim. All three previous summits were held this year in China, starting with Kim’s visit to Beijing in March. It was Kim’s first official overseas trip since taking power in December 2011.

The March meeting ended Xi’s apparent refusal to meet with Kim out of frustration over the North’s nuclear and missile tests.

With Xi’s anticipated visit to Pyongyang, September is poised to be filled with major diplomatic events, starting with Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang, possibly before Sept. 9, followed by Xi’s visit there for the North’s founding anniversary. President Moon Jae-in is also expected to meet Kim a third time in Pyongyang sometime in mid-September.

Following the third inter-Korean summit this year, some speculate that Kim could attend the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, which kicks off on Sept. 18.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]