Trump tells Fox about 5 nuclear sites in North
Trump told Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday that he told Kim during their summit in Vietnam in late February, “Look you’re not ready for a deal” because the North Korean leader “wanted to get rid of one or two sites, but he has five sites.”
Trump said he asked Kim, “What about the other three sites? That’s no good - if we’re going to make a deal, let’s make a real deal.”
He did not detail the locations of the five nuclear sites.
Trump’s remarks sparked concern that he may be giving away classified intelligence referring to key nuclear facilities identified by U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities.
The two sites Trump said Kim offered to dismantle likely include the Yongbyon nuclear complex in North Pyongan Province, which North Korea offered to permanently dismantle during the Hanoi summit, along with the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province. North Korea demolished tunnels at Punggye-ri in the presence of foreign media one year ago, ahead of the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore.
When asked what nuclear facilities Trump was referring to, a Blue House official said Tuesday, “Our government is closely monitoring the North Korea issue. But it is not appropriate for us to confirm the conversation between the leaders of North Korea and the United States.” Likewise, the official said that the Blue House “could not confirm” the location of the five facilities mentioned by Trump.
A suspected secret uranium enrichment plant located in Kangson in Chollima District, Nampo City, has been mentioned frequently by analysts as a possible additional nuclear site on Trump’s radar. A covert, underground highly-enriched uranium facility in Bungang, just a few kilometers away from Yongbyon, has also been previously reported as a possible nuclear site that Trump wanted eliminated. Experts have also mentioned a highly-enriched uranium plant in Sowi-ri, also in North Pyongan, north of Yongbyon.
The North-U.S. denuclearization negotiations have been at an impasse since the Kim-Trump summit ended with no deal on Feb. 28. Trump has called for the North to fully dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile programs before sanctions relief. The North offered to dismantle Yongbyon in exchange for some partial relief, but the Trump administration said that was not enough.
In a press conference right after the summit collapsed in Hanoi, Trump said he brought “many points up that I think they were surprised that we knew,” hinting at possibly an additional uranium enrichment plant.
Some analysts like David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear inspector, noted to Radio Free Asia Monday that Trump’s mentions of the five sites appear to be just a “vague estimate” of North Korean nuclear production complexes.
Also in the interview, Trump emphasized that he will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons as he ups pressure on the country, including tweeting Sunday: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” in language echoing the bellicose rhetoric against North Korea last year.
“I’m not somebody that wants to go in to war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly,” said Trump in the Fox News interview Sunday.
Trump took a softer tone on Pyongyang and told Fox News that North Korea “haven’t had any tests over the last two years - zero.”
He added, “There’s a chart and it shows 24 tests, 22 tests, 18 tests. Then I come, and once I’m there for a little while you know, we went through a pretty rough rhetorical period. Once I’m there for a little while, no tests.”
The North earlier this month launched short-range projectiles, followed by firing two short-range missiles on May 9 in what could be seen as a drift away from the moratorium on testing since November 2017. However, the actions were not seen as enough as to provoke Washington to overturn the ongoing denuclearization negotiations.
Trump told reporters after the May 9 missile tests, “I don’t think they’re ready to negotiate,” noting that “nobody’s happy about it.”
But Trump in an interview with Politico on May 10 downplayed the latest missile test, calling them “short-range” and “very standard stuff.” He said he did not “consider that a breach of trust at all.” His latest remarks underscored his stance that North Korea has not broken its pledge to halt nuclear and long-range missile tests, seen as a goodwill gesture toward the diplomatic engagement with the United States.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]