Trump: North Korea ‘total denuclearization’ started; officials see no new moves
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday North Korea was blowing up four of its big test sites and that a process of “total denuclearization … has already started,” but officials said there was no such evidence since a landmark summit last week.
Trump said at a Cabinet meeting in the White House that “They’ve stopped the sending of missiles, including ballistic missiles. They’re destroying their engine site. They’re blowing it up. They’ve already blown up one of their big test sites, in fact it’s actually four of their big test sites.
“And the big thing is it will be a total denuclearization, which has already started taking place.”
It was not immediately clear which North Korean test sites Trump was referring to and U.S. officials familiar with current intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear and missile test sites said there was no evidence of new moves to dismantle any sites since Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated Trump might have been referring to explosions last month that North Korea said were to destroy tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and the dismantling of a medium-range ballistic missile test stand at Iha-ri, also in May.
There had been contact with North Korean officials since the summit, the U.S. State Department said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “will be meeting with them and talking with them at the earliest possible date” to implement what was agreed in Singapore, spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters, without providing further details.
Asked on Wednesday if North Korea had done anything toward denuclearization since the summit, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters: “No, I’m not aware of that … obviously, it’s the very front end of a process. The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point.”
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s latest remarks. There also was no immediate response from the White House.
The U.S.-based North Korea monitoring group 38 North said in an analysis at the end of last week there had been no sign of any activity toward dismantling of any missile test site.
Trump, who has been leading an international drive to press North Korea to abandon development of nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States, told reporters after the June 12 summit that Kim had pledged to dismantle one of his missile installations.
A U.S. official said on Wednesday that the site Trump referred to then was the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, a major facility in the western part of the country that has been used for testing engines for long-range missiles.