Satellite images indicate North Korea has begun dismantling key facilities at a site used to develop engines for ballistic missiles, in a first step toward fulfilling a pledge made to U.S. President Donald Trump at a June summit, a Washington-based think tank said on Monday.
The July 20 images showed work at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station to dismantle a building used to assemble space-launch vehicles and a nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles, the 38 North think tank said.
“Since these facilities are believed to have played an important role in the development of technologies for the North’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, these efforts represent a significant confidence-building measure on the part of North Korea,” it said in a report.
Trump told a news conference after his unprecedented June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Kim had promised that a major missile engine testing site would be destroyed very soon.
Trump did not identify the site, but a U.S. official subsequently told Reuters that it was Sohae.
The 38 North report comes amid growing questions about North Korea’s willingness to live up to the commitments Kim made at the summit, particularly to work toward denuclearization.
U.S. officials have repeatedly said North Korea has committed to giving up a nuclear weapons program that now threatens the United States, but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about this.
On Friday, senior U.S. officials called on Kim to act on his promise to give up his nuclear weapons and said the world, including China and Russia, must continued to enforce sanctions on Pyongyang until he does so.
On Monday, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory together with the departments of Treasury and Homeland Security alerting businesses to North Korea’s sanctions-evasion tactics.
It said they should “implement effective due diligence policies, procedures, and internal controls to ensure compliance with applicable legal requirements across their entire supply chains.”
In a tweet early on Monday, Trump rejected “Fake News” that he was angry because progress was not happening fast enough with North Korea.
“Wrong, very happy!” he said in the Tweet.
“A Rocket has not been launched by North Korea in 9 months. Likewise, no Nuclear Tests. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy,” he said.
A report in The Washington Post at the weekend said that in spite of positive assessments Trump has given on progress with North Korea, he has vented anger at aides over a lack of immediate progress.
Last week, Trump said there was “no rush” and “no time limit” on denuclearization negotiations.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Thursday it was technically possible for North Korea to eliminate its nuclear weapons program within a year, but added that it was not likely to happen.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by James Dalgleish
Chinese fans grieve for NBA superstar Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash
NBA star Kobe Bryant's death triggered an outpouring of grief on Monday in China, where he was beloved by fans, with a hashtag of the news drawing more than a billion views.
Nine people were killed in a helicopter crash including Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday.
Basketball is arguably the most popular sport in China, and Bryant -- a five-time NBA champion who blogged for Chinese internet giant SINA in 2009 -- was among the first American stars to garner a large fan base in the country.
He remained popular in China after his retirement in 2016, frequently engaging via social media with Chinese fans.
Bolton’s firsthand evidence puts senators in the difficult position of believing ‘bizarro’ Trump team argument: Legal experts
Former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe agreed that the recent revelations from John Bolton, puts Republicans in a difficult position. Bolton's manuscript confirmed that President Donald Trump's bribery scheme puts senators in the difficult position of being faced with firsthand witnesses they've tried to block.
Republicans were given multiple opportunities to agree that they would like to hear witnesses and new evidence as part of the impeachment trial in the Senate, but each time, they voted against it. But with the news Bolton released Sunday night, it forces senators to acknowledge they deny even firsthand evidence of Trump's guilt.
Democratic senator says she gets more ‘disheartened’ every day hearing GOP deny evidence and witnesses
Day after day, Republicans senators find new excuses to dismiss the evidence they hear that in any courtroom would convict an ordinary American citizen. It was enough to make normally happy Sen. Debbie Stabenow (R-MI) feel "disheartened" by the whole process.
"As somebody from Michigan, we believe in commonsense, and you can't look at all this and say, 'is this how somebody would act if they were innocent?'" said Stabenow. "And you can't look at this and say, 'Is this how somebody would act if they were innocent?' All of this coming out over and over again. I'll never forget Adam Schiff on the floor saying to all of us, 'Nobody's saying, well, gosh, Donald Trump would never do that.' The truth is it's all about will he get away with it? It's all about, are they going to be successful in hiding it and so on?"