WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea’s activity on nuclear weapons and missiles is inconsistent with its pledge to denuclearise, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea said on Wednesday.
A summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi last month broke down over differences about U.S. demands for North Korea to rid itself of nuclear weapons that threaten the United States, and North Korea’s demand for substantial relief from international sanctions imposed on it because of its nuclear and missile tests.
“Their activity that we have observed is inconsistent with denuclearisation,” U.S. Army General Robert Abrams said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. Abrams did not provide further details.
He had been asked if the United States had seen a change in North Korea’s production of nuclear weapons, material and missiles.
Early in March, several American think tanks and South Korean officials reported that satellite imagery showed possible preparations for a launch from the Sohae rocket launch site at Tongchang-ri, North Korea, which has been used in the past to launch satellites but not intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
There have also been reports from South Korea’s intelligence service of activity at a factory at Sanumdong near Pyongyang that produced North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Since then however, South Korea’s defence minister has said it was premature to say whether recent activity at some of North Korea’s rocket facilities involved preparations for a missile launch.
Abrams also said that despite a reduction in tensions with North Korea, there had been little to no verifiable changes in its military capabilities.
“North Korea’s conventional and asymmetric military capabilities along with their continued development of advanced conventional munitions and systems all remains unchecked,” Abrams said.
North Korea has frozen nuclear and missile testing since 2017, and Trump has pointed to this as a positive outcome from nearly a year of high-level engagement with North Korea.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)