North Korea still building at nuclear site: 38 North

PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL - North Korea is carrying out rapid improvements to its nuclear research facility, a monitor said on Wednesday (June 27), despite declaring a commitment to denuclearisation of the peninsula at the Singapore summit.

The nuclear-armed North's leader Kim Jong Un promised to "work toward" the goal at a landmark summit in the city-state earlier this month with US President Donald Trump.

But the Singapore meeting failed to clearly define denuclearisation or produce a specific timeline towards dismantling the North's atomic weapons arsenal.

Trump claimed the process would start quickly, saying last week that "It will be a total denuclearisation, which is already taking place."

But recent satellite imagery showed that not only were operations continuing at present at the North's main Yongbyon nuclear site, it was also carrying out infrastructure works, said the respected 38 North website.

"Commercial satellite imagery from June 21 indicates that improvements to the infrastructure at... Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace," it said.

It noted "continued operations" at the North's uranium enrichment plant and several new installations at the site - including an engineering office and a driveway to a building housing a nuclear reactor.

But continued operations at the site "should not be seen as having any relationship with North Korea's pledge to denuclearise", it added.

Nuclear officials could be "expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang", it said.

North Korea destroys Punggye-ri nuclear test site

  • North Korea destroyed its Punggye-ri test site in front of international journalists Thursday, pool reports said.
  • The North dynamited the northern underground tunnel in Punggye-ri, a northeastern remote area, around 11 a.m., according to a brief pool report.
  • The western and southern tunnels were destroyed after 2 p.m., followed by the explosion of barracks and other facilities at the site, including observation posts and laboratories.
  • The dismantlement was completed at 4:17 p.m.
  • It was not immediately confirmed whether the North's leader Kim Jong-un was present at the site during the event.
  • North Korea had previously said it would blow up four underground tunnels, close all entrances and remove other facilities at the Punggye-ri complex between Wednesday and Friday, depending on the weather.
  • Despite hopes that the dismantlement ceremony will lead to nuclear disarmament, experts remain doubtful of North Korea's true intentions, citing a similar event involving a cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear reactor facility in 2008.

The North last month blew up its aged but only nuclear test site at Punggye-ri - where it had staged six atomic tests - in a show of goodwill before the summit.

But Pyongyang has kept its counsel on the denuclearisation issue since the meeting, although state media have dialled down propaganda against the US, long dubbed the "imperialist enemy."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been pushing for more follow-up talks to flesh out details over denuclearisation but no date has been set for when they would take place.

Also read: US aims for 'major' North Korea disarmament in 2.5 years: Pompeo

When Trump met Kim: A Singapore story

  • Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un made history Tuesday, becoming the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet and shake hands, as they seek to end a tense decades-old nuclear stand-off.
  • It was a meeting many would have thought unimaginable just months ago.
  • The two men strode toward each other and shared the momentous handshake beneath the white-washed walls of an upscale hotel in neutral Singapore, before sitting down for a half-day of meetings with major ramifications for the world.
  • Prior to the meeting held at Capella Hotel in Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, Trump had said that he would know "within the first minute", whether any agreement would be possible.
  • The watching world is not sure if it's the start of a beautiful, budding "bromance", but here's a look at how the world's most talked-about first date unfolded.
  • Their handshake reportedly lasted for 12 long seconds (though still 7 seconds shorter than his memorable handshake with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe).
  • Trump also reached out to touch the North Korean leader on his right shoulder.
  • According to a body language expert Karen Leong, the first 60 seconds showed both leaders seeking to take charge in their encounter. US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both sought to project a sense of command. "Their handshake seems to be between peers," she said.
  • "Trump seemed to be very aware of this, that he needed to up the stakes and be seen that he is the leader."
  • Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.
  • Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.
  • The US President, who is more than twice Kim's age, then appeared to lead the way to the library where they held a one-on-one meeting, placing his hand on the North Korean leader's counterpart's back.
  • Kim also patted the US president' arm, in an attempt to show control over the encounter, said Leong.
  • The leaders appeared to share a few light-hearted moments as they walked down a corridor to the hotel's library.
  • However, Leong said both found it difficult to conceal their nervousness once they were seated, with Trump displaying a slanted smile, and fidgeting with his hands and Kim leaning and staring at the ground.
  • As they sat down for their one-on-one meeting, the US leader predicted a "terrific relationship" with Kim.
  • Mr Kim then said through a translator: “The way to come to here was not easy.The old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”
  • After their closed door one-on-one talks, the pair continued with explanded bilateral talks with their delegation. Trump was flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton.
  • Sitting across the table from the US team were North Korean leader Kim, Kim Yong-chol, first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s central committee, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Ri Su-yong, Workers’ Party vice chairman on international affairs.
  • Thereafter, the two leaders attended a working lunch with their respective delegations at Capella Hotel.
  • On the lunch menu: Main courses include beef short rib confit, served with potato dauphinois and steamed broccoli; sweet and sour crispy pork and fried rice with an "XO" chilli sauce as well as a Korean dish called "daegu jorim", which is a soy braised cod fish with radish and Asian vegetables.
  • Post-lunch, Kim and Trump then went for a leisurely stroll around the hotel grounds.
  • He also said talks had gone "better than anybody could have expected", and indicated that they were heading for a "signing", but did not divulge any details of the agreement.
  • During their walk, Trump unexpectedly gave Kim a peek into his super limo, nicknamed "The Beast".
  • But they did not get to hop on to go for a joyride, as commentators had hoped.
  • The pair met to sign an agreement, details of which were not revealed during the signing. Trump said: "We're signing a very important document, pretty comprehensive document, and we've had a really great time together, a great relationship... More will be discussed at a press conference soon."
  • When asked what he learnt about Kim, Trump said that he is "a very talented man", and that "he loves his country very much".
  • Mr Trump also described Mr Kim as a "very worthy, very smart negotiator".
  • According to sources after the signing, the two leaders pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy.
  • The signatures of US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said he expected the denuclearization process to start "very, very quickly".
  • Kim places a hand on Trump's back as they leave the room after the signing.
  • After the signing, the pair walked out for another round of photo-taking.
  • Reports say Mr Kim departed Singapore on a chartered Air China flight at 11.20pm and midnight on Tuesday, while Trump left on Air Force One earlier at 6.25pm.
  • At 4pm, Trump held a press conference on the summit outcome and details on the agreement signed.
  • "We signed a joint statement that is an unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of North Korea," he says.
  • The Capella Hotel on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, provided the backdrop for the historic summit.
  • Trump's motorcade arriving at Sentosa on Tuesday (June 12) morning.
  • Setting the stage ready for the handshake that will be seen across the world.

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