US has plan to dismantle North Korea nuclear programme within a year: Bolton

PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL/WASHINGTON - White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Sunday he believed the bulk of North Korea's weapons programs could be dismantled within a year, as the United States and North Korea resumed working-level talks.

Bolton told CBS's "Face the Nation" that Washington has devised a programme to dismantle North Korea's weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological and nuclear - and ballistic missile programs in a year, if there is full co-operation and disclosure from Pyongyang.

"If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they're cooperative, we can move very quickly," he said. "Physically we would be able to dismantle the overwhelming bulk of their programs within a year."

He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will likely discuss that proposal with the North Koreans soon. The Financial Times reported that Pompeo was due to visit North Korea this week but the State Department has not confirmed any travel plans.

South Korea media reported on Sunday that Sung Kim, the US ambassador to the Philippines, met with North Korean officials on Sunday at the border village of Panmunjom within the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas to coordinate an agenda for Pompeo's next visit to North Korea.

Kim's delegation delivered Pompeo's letter to Kim Yong Chol, a top Pyongyang official who met Pompeo and US President Donald Trump ahead of last month's historic summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Yonhap news agency said, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.

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.

Some experts disputed Bolton's optimistic time frame for decommissioning the North's weapons.

"It would be physically possible to dismantle the bulk of North Korea's programs within a year," said Thomas Countryman, the State Department's top arms control officer under President Barack Obama.

"I do not believe it would be possible to verify full dismantlement within a year, nor have I yet seen evidence of a firm DPRK decision to undertake full dismantlement."

A North Korean missile production facility in the city of Hamhung is seen from a satellite image taken on June 29, 2018.​
Photo: Reuters

North Korea is completing a major expansion of a key missile-manufacturing plant, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing researchers who have examined new satellite imagery from San Francisco-based Planet Labs Inc.

Images analysed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California show North Korea was finishing construction on the exterior of the plant around the time Kim Jong Un held a summit with Trump last month, the report said.

The Chemical Material Institute in Hamhung makes solid-fuel ballistic missiles, which could allow North Korean to transport and launch a missile more quickly, compared to a liquid-fuel system that requires lengthy preparation.

Last week, 38 North, a website run by the Johns Hopkins University, said satellite imagery showed the North had been upgrading its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

"None of this activity technically violates any agreement Kim may have made," said Vipin Narang, an associate professor at MIT's security studies Programme.

"What it suggests is that Kim has no intention of surrendering his nuclear weapons."

Kim agreed at the June 12 summit to "work toward denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula," but the joint statement released after the meeting gave no details on how or when Pyongyang might forsake its nuclear and missile programs.

As negotiations progress, the North could try to trade sites and technology that have relatively low values in exchange for sanctions relief, while covertly operating facilities required to advance key capabilities, Narang said.

"It is perfectly rational for North Korea to shift the emphasis to developing solid fuel missiles now that it already has a suite of liquid fuel missiles to deter an attack," he said.

TRUST BUT VERIFY

Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist and Stanford University professor, has predicted it would take around 10 years to dismantle and clean up a substantial part of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear site.

US intelligence is not certain how many nuclear warheads North Korea has. The Defence Intelligence Agency is at the high end with an estimate of about 50, but all the agencies believe Pyongyang is concealing an unknown number, especially smaller tactical ones, in caves and other underground facilities around the country.

The US intelligence agencies believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months and may try to hide these while seeking concessions in nuclear talks with the United States, NBC News quoted US officials as saying on Friday.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that US intelligence officials have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully give up its nuclear arsenal and is considering ways to hide the number of weapons it has. It also reported Pyongyang has secret production facilities, according to the latest evidence they have.

Bolton refused to comment on intelligence matters but the United States was going into nuclear negotiations aware of Pyongyang's failure to live up to its promises in the past.

"There's not any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this," he said. "We're well aware of what the North Koreans have done in the past."

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