Trump administration: North Korea missile moves don't undermine peace push

Posted August 02, 2018

Additional satellite photos show work now underway at the Sanumdong research facility near the capital city of Pyongyang on at least one and perhaps two liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.

While President Donald Trump proclaimed on Twitter in recent weeks that North Korea is "no longer a Nuclear Threat", the regime continues to construct new missiles, according to US intelligence officials who spoke with the Washington Post. It cited anonymous officials "familiar with the intelligence" as saying that work on at least one and possibly two intercontinental ballistic missiles was underway. North Korea has steadfastly argued its nuclear weapons are meant to neutralize alleged US plans to attack it.

"We see them going to work, just as before", one U.S. official said.

North Korea handed over just one dog tag and no other information about the 55 boxes of remains it gave to United States officials last week, a report said Tuesday.

A U.S. military transport aircraft on Friday flew the remains from the North Korean city of Wonsan, a first step in implementing an agreement reached at a landmark summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in June. Trump later suspended annual military drills with South Korea which North Korea had long called an invasion rehearsal.

Historical satellite photos show that the facility was externally complete by 2003.

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Still, Joel Wit, a former State Department negotiator and founder of North Korea-watching website 38 North, said that the North's moves were, historically, par for the course.

The Sanumdong site, on the edge of the capital Pyongyang, previously produced two Hwasong-15 missiles, North Korea's longest-range missiles, which experts have the ability to hit the US.

At the Singapore summit in June, Kim agreed in a vaguely worded joint statement to "work toward" the "denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula.

But he insisted the Trump administration was still making progress in its talks. But experts say positive identification of all the remains could take years. Pyongyang has appeared open to discussions surrounding its status as a nuclear state following meetings with both South Korea and the United States.

After that meeting, the U.S. president declared North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat and there was cautious optimism that the secretive state could call time on its missile programme.

Besides being the US's largest trading partner, China is arguably the most important player in Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign to force Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

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The U.S. -led United Nations Command planned a formal repatriation ceremony Wednesday at Osan, where the remains have been examined and catalogued by DPAA.

During his Senate testimony on July 25, Pompeo said that factories in North Korea "continue to produce fissile material".

But the actual details of the process, including how and when the North's nuclear program is to be dismantled, have yet to be worked out.

Indonesian authorities have invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to attend the opening ceremony of the 2018 Asian Games, which will run from August 18 until September 2 in Jakarta and Palembang.

Between 1990 and 2005 229 sets of remains from the North were repatriated, but those operations were suspended when ties worsened over Pyongyang's banned nuclear weapons programme.

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