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N. Korea unlikely to give up all nukes: U.S. commander

  • February 13, 2019
  • , Kyodo News , 9:19 a.m.
  • English Press

WASHINGTON — A top U.S. military commander expressed doubts Tuesday that North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, in remarks two weeks before a second U.S.-North Korea summit aimed at denuclearizing the isolated country.


“We think it is unlikely that North Korea will give up all of its nuclear weapons or production capabilities, but seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization in exchange for U.S. and international concessions,” Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said in a written statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee.


“We must remain vigilant to the threat North Korea still poses to the United States and the international community,” Davidson said.


Underscoring his view — which is in line with that of the U.S. intelligence community — a new U.S. study has found Pyongyang continued to produce bomb fuel in 2018 despite North Korean leader Kim Jong Un committing to “complete” denuclearization during the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in June last year in Singapore.


The study by Siegfried Hecker and other Stanford University scholars showed North Korea may have produced enough fissile material last year to add up to seven nuclear weapons to its arsenal.


“North Korea unsurprisingly continued to operate and, in some cases, expand the nuclear weapons complex infrastructure,” it said. “It continued to operate its nuclear facilities to produce plutonium and highly enriched uranium that may allow it to increase the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal from roughly 30 in 2017 to 35-37.”


Davidson’s remarks and the Stanford study came before President Donald Trump is set to hold his second meeting with Kim on Feb. 27 and 28 in Hanoi.


Davidson’s assessment matched that of U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who said last month that North Korea is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.


The Stanford report, however, said Pyongyang’s suspension of a nuclear test and an intercontinental ballistic missile launch in 2017 has not only halted the rapid advance of its weapons programs but “rolled back the threat we judged the North’s nuclear and missile programs to pose in 2017.”


The first summit, held in Singapore last June, resulted in a vague denuclearization agreement, in which Kim promised to work toward “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula while Trump committed to providing security guarantees to Pyongyang.

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