Trump Says He'd Be Disappointed in Kim If Missile Site Rebuilt
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he’d be very disappointed in Kim Jong Un if reports are accurate that North Korea has begun rebuilding a missile test site it dismantled last year.
“I would be very disappointed if that were happening,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “It is a very early report -- we are the ones who put it out -- but I would be very, very disappointed in Chairman Kim.”
Trump abruptly ended a summit with Kim last week in Hanoi after the president said the North Korean leader asked for all U.S. sanctions to be lifted in exchange for the dismantling of the country’s main nuclear complex. Two days later, new images from Beyond Parallel, part of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, showed that North Korea was rebuilding a long-range rocket site at the Sohae Launch Facility.
The site was dismantled after Trump’s June summit with Kim in an apparent show of goodwill by Pyongyang.
Any movement at the site does not necessarily mean a missile test is imminent, according to an analyst. “Simply because they are reassembling it does not necessarily mean they will use it right away and the imagery does not show overt signs of launch preparations,” said Jenny Town, a research fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center. “This reversal of North Korea’s confidence building measure and restoration of this facility is likely out of frustration for not making progress on either sanctions or inter-Korean economic cooperation,” she said.
In a separate report, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service spotted “special activities” with transport vehicles at a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile research and production site called Sanumdong located in the Pyongyang area, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper of South Korea reported, citing an unidentified member of parliament’s intelligence committee.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton warned North Korea that it must be willing to completely give up its nuclear weapons program or it may face even tougher sanctions. He signaled willingness on the part of Trump’s administration to restarting talks.
“He thinks the deal is there if North Korea is willing to look at the big picture,” Bolton told Fox News on Thursday.
The threat of more sanctions risks increasing tensions following the collapse of the summit, which Trump said ended amicably. The U.S. wanted more action by Pyongyang on hidden nuclear facilities, as well as warheads and ICBMs that could deliver them to the American mainland.
When asked last week whether the U.S. would strengthen sanctions on North Korea, Trump said the sanctions were already strong.
“I don’t want to talk about increasing sanctions. They’re strong,” he said at a news conference in Hanoi shortly after walking away from the summit. “They have a lot of great people in North Korea that have to live also. And that’s important to me.”
Any strengthening of sanctions would have to be coordinated with allies and rivals in the United Nations Security Council. Speaking outside the council on Wednesday, U.K. envoy Karen Pierce didn’t rule out the possibility of more crippling sanctions.
“We need to find a way to get Pyongyang to make those complete, verifiable and irreversible steps,” she said. “Obviously, engagement has not yet produced the results we want. So stronger sanctions would be an obvious, hypothetical option.”
Bolton said the U.S. wouldn’t “buy the same pony that they’ve sold to previous administrations,” calling on North Korea “to go back and reassess their strategy.” Accepting Kim’s offer, he said, would have “given North Korea a lifeline, giving them a chance to get their breath back economically while potentially still concealing a lot of nuclear weapons capabilities, missiles and the rest of it.”
Kim had vowed to meet Trump again to continue talks on his country’s nuclear weapons program, and the U.S. president also maintained an optimistic tone after the summit collapsed.
A North Korean documentary aired on its state television Wednesday also hailed the leaders’ meeting without mentioning the summit’s failure to generate a deal. “If the two come up with a fair proposal under the principle of accepting and respecting each other, while having the right attitude toward negotiations and a will to solve problems,” an unidentified North Korean narrator said as Trump and Kim are shown taking a walk at a hotel in Hanoi; then “North Korea-U.S. relations will advance, overcoming obstacles and difficulties and can write a new history and a new future.”
Yet signs of friction are starting to emerge.
North Korea disputed Trump’s assertion that Kim “wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety,” with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho saying his country had only asked for relief from sanctions enacted in 2016 and 2017. He said that would mean removing sanctions imposed by just five of 11 UN resolutions against the country, while U.S. officials have said it would effectively lift all the restrictions on Pyongyang except those applying directly to weapons.
Bolton said on the “Lou Dobbs Tonight” program that he thought Kim would want to talk to Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, before engaging with the U.S. again. He said he didn’t believe the two leaders spoke as Kim returned to North Korea.
“We’re going to see a lot of potential decisions coming out of North Korea, whether they’re serious about the talks, whether they want to get back into them and fundamentally whether they’re committed to giving up their nuclear weapons program and everything associated with it,” Bolton said.
“The president’s ready to make a deal, he’s ready to meet again,” he said. “He’s pointed to that bright economic future and if Kim Jong Un decides he wants to take advantage of it, the president’s ready to talk to him.”
In South Korea, a former minister who oversaw inter-Korean affairs during previous administrations blamed Bolton for the summit breakdown.
“When it comes to the Korean Peninsula issue, he is really obnoxious,” Jeong Se Hyun, a former South Korean unification minister, told ruling party lawmakers at a forum Tuesday. Jeong likened Bolton to “a white cavalry leader in an old Western movie who doesn’t feel guilty about killing Native Americans,” according to Korea Times.
Jeong, part of an inter-Korean summit advisory group for the South Korean government, said Bolton must have demanded that North Korea dismantle its highly enriched uranium program. “Bolton’s specialty is to abruptly move the goal post,” he said.
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