Trump scoffs at report North Korea has undeclared nuclear sites

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump played down concern about a new report that identified 13 undeclared North Korean missile bases, saying that the US was fully aware of them and suggesting that negotiations with the country remain on track.

"We fully know about the sites being discussed, nothing new - and nothing happening out of the normal," Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday. "I will be the first to let you know if things go bad!"

The 13 sites are among an estimated 20 bases, small and dispersed across the country, that are believed to have underground facilities containing mobile launchers that can be quickly dispersed to other locations, according to the report from Beyond Parallel, a group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Although not designed as launch sites, the bases could be used to launch short-range as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the report.

The report's findings, first disclosed by the New York Times, appeared to undermine the Trump administration's claims that its outreach to Pyongyang is making progress in getting Mr Kim Jong Un's regime to give up its nuclear weapons programme. But experts argue that the country has not made any commitment to dismantle such missile bases yet, so the fact that it would maintain them does not in itself represent a breakdown in talks with the US.

Mr Trump directed his tweet at the Times story. That report said that while US intelligence knew about the bases, their existence suggested "a great deception" because the country was improving some sites while offering to dismantle another major launch site.

"Just more Fake News," he said.

TRUMP DISMISSIVE

Just more Fake News.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, tweeting in response to the New York Times report.

The existence of the bases suggests that Pyongyang's previous efforts to dismantle known launch sites or nuclear facilities had little impact on its nuclear programme.

"The dispersed nature, small size of operating bases, and tactics and doctrine employed by ballistic missile units provide the best chances for their survival given the KPA's technology and capabilities," said the report, using an acronym for the Korean People's Army.

The report comes as talks between the US and North Korea hit another snag last week, with a New York meeting between Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and the top negotiator from Pyongyang cancelled at the last minute.

Mr Trump chalked up the change to a scheduling conflict.

 
 

Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Mr Trump was "getting played by Kim Jong Un".

"We cannot have another summit with North Korea... unless and until the Kim regime takes concrete, tangible actions to halt and roll back its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes," Mr Markey said on Monday.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday Mr Trump was still interested in meeting Mr Kim again. "We have indicated to the North Koreans that the President is prepared to have a second summit with Kim Jong Un after the first of the year," he said.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2018, with the headline 'Trump scoffs at report North Korea has undeclared nuclear sites'. Print Edition | Subscribe