US open to North Korea talks despite missile program activity

March 08, 2019 08:49
File picture of a missile being fired during a North Korean military drill. Photo: KCNA via AFP

US President Donald Trump is open to additional talks with Pyongyang over denuclearization, his national security adviser, despite reports that North Korea is reactivating parts of its missile program.

New activity has been detected at a factory that produced North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States, South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo and Donga Ilbo newspapers reported, citing lawmakers briefed by the National Intelligence Service.

This week, two US think tanks and Seoul’s spy agency said North Korea was rebuilding its Sohae rocket launch site, prompting Trump to say he would be “very, very disappointed” in North Korea leader Kim Jong-un if it were true. The think tanks said on Thursday they believed the launch site was operational again.

Asked on Thursday if he was disappointed about recent North Korean activity, Trump told reporters: “It’s disappointing,” while adding without elaborating: “We’ll see. We’ll let you know in about a year.”

The reports of North Korean activity raise more questions about the future of the dialogue Trump has pursued with Kim after a second summit between them broke down in Vietnam last week.

White House national security adviser John Bolton, a hard-liner who has argued for a tough approach to North Korea in the past, said Trump was still open to more talks with the country.

“The president’s obviously open to talking again. We’ll see when that might be scheduled or how it might work out,” he told Fox News, adding that it was too soon to make a determination on the reports of the North Korean activities.

“We’re going to study the situation carefully. As the president said, it would be very, very disappointing if they were taking this direction.”

The Feb. 27-28 Vietnam summit collapsed over differences on how far North Korea was willing to limit its nuclear program and the degree of US willingness to ease economic sanctions.

Trump, eager for a big foreign policy win on North Korea that has eluded his predecessors for decades, has repeatedly stressed his good relationship with Kim.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he was hopeful he would send a delegation to North Korea for more talks in the next couple of weeks, but that he had received “no commitment yet”. Reuters

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