The Sohae launch facility at the Tongchang-ri site has been used for
satellite launches and engine testing but never for ballistic missile launches.
This week’s satellite images, coming from several US think tanks and
testimony from the South Korean intelligence service, appear to show rapid
progress has been made in rebuilding structures on the rocket launch pad.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said North Korea could yet face
more sanctions if there is no progress on denuclearization.
A historic first meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2018 in Singapore produced a vaguely worded agreement on “denuclearization” but little progress.
President Donald Trump has arrived in Vietnam’s
capital, Hanoi, ahead of his second summit with North Korean leader, Kim
Air Force One landed at Noi Bai airport hours after Kim Jon-un reached Hanoi
by train and car.
The summit, which is due to take place between February 27 and 28, follows a
historic first round of talks in Singapore in 2018.
Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are expected to discuss progress towards
ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.
Ceremonial guards had lined a red carpet laid out for Kim Jong-un as he
arrived at Dong Dang border station on February 26. He was then driven to
Hanoi, where heavy security and flag-waving crowds were waiting for him.
Kim Jong-un is thought to be
travelling with his sister Kim Yo-jong and one of his key negotiators, former
General Kim Yong-chol, both familiar faces from the previous summit with PresidentTrump.
The journey from Pyongyang to Hanoi
took more than two days and traversed about 2,500 miles.
As Kim Jong-un’s train passed
through China, roads were closed and train stations shut down. Chinese social
media was abuzz with road closures, traffic congestion and delayed trains.
Vietnam’s Dong Dang station was also
closed to the public ahead of his arrival.
Kim Jong-un is now being driven
around 100 miles to Hanoi by car.
The North Korean leader chose to
take the train as this is how his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, travelled when he
went to Vietnam and Eastern Europe.
Kim Jong-un’s private green and
yellow train has 21 bulletproof carriages and is luxurious, with plush pink
leather sofas and conference rooms so the journey would not have been
Air Force One left Andrews Air Force
Base in Maryland, landing in Hanoi on Tuesday night local time.
Details of their schedule are only
just becoming clear. President Trump will meet Kim Jong-un for a brief
one-on-one conversation on February 27 and then they will have dinner together
with their advisers, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. On
February 28, the leaders will meet for a series of back-and-forth meetings.
The Hanoi meeting is expected to
build on the groundwork of what was achieved at the Singapore summit in June
The first summit produced a vaguely
worded agreement, with both leaders agreeing to work towards denuclearization –
though it was never made clear what this would entail.
However, little diplomatic progress
was made following that meeting.
This time round, both leaders will
be very conscious that expectations will be high for an outcome that
demonstrates tangible signs of progress.
However, President Trump appeared to
be managing expectations ahead of the summit, saying he was in “no
rush” to press for North Korea’s denuclearization.
He said: “I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing. As long
as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”
Vietnam has been chosen for many
reasons. It has diplomatic relations with both the US and North Korea, despite
once having been enemies with the US – and could be used by the US as an
example of two countries working together and setting aside their past
Ideologically, both Vietnam and North Korea are communist countries – though Vietnam has rapidly developed since and become one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, all while the party there retains absolute power.
Speaking to reporters, President Donald Trump revealed:
The US would suspend “provocative” drills it holds with South Korea. He wanted to see US troops withdraw from South Korea. A spokesperson for the US forces said they had yet to receive any new guidance
On denuclearization, Kim Jong-un had agreed to it being “verified”, a key US demand ahead of the meeting
they had also agreed to destroy a “major missile engine testing site”
however, sanctions would remain in place for now and argued “we haven’t given up anything”.
Several reporters asked whether President Trump had raised the issue of human rights with Kim Jong-un, who runs a totalitarian regime with extreme censorship and forced-labor camps.
President Trump said he had, and did not retract his description of Kim Jong-un as “talented”.
He said: “Well, he is very talented.
“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough. I don’t say he was nice.”
In a post-summit interview with ABC News, President Trump said he was confident that the agreement meant full denuclearization.
“Yeah, he’s de-nuking, I mean he’s de-nuking the whole place. It’s going to start very quickly. I think he’s going to start now,” he said.
“I think he trusts me and I trust him,” the president added.
Sitting alongside each other, ahead of a one-on-one meeting, President Trump and Kim Jong-un appeared relaxed against the odds.
Kim Jong-un said: “It was not easy to get here.
“There were obstacles but we overcame them to be here.”
The two leaders, accompanied only by interpreters, spoke for a little under 40 minutes. They were then joined by small delegations of advisers for a working lunch.
Over lunch Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un shared a mix of Western and Korean dishes, including stuffed cucumbers and Daegu jorim, a soy-braised fish dish.
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meeting will take place at the five-star Capella Hotel on the Singaporean island of Sentosa, the White House has confirmed.
The June 12 summit was called off two weeks ago by President Trump but has since been salvaged after a flurry of contacts between the two sides.
On June 5, President Trump said that plans were “moving along very nicely”.
The US wants Kim Jong-un to commit to giving up his nuclear weapons.
However, it is unclear exactly what is on the table for the discussions in Singapore. President Trump has suggested the first meeting will kick off a longer process of negotiations, calling it a “get-to-know-you situation”.
He told reporters: “A lot of relationships being built, a lot of negotiations going on before the trip.
“It’s very important – it’ll be a very important couple of days.”
The summit would represent the first ever meeting between a US sitting president and a North Korean leader.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed on Twitter that the summit would take place at the Capella Hotel.
However, it appears that the two leaders will stay elsewhere. President Trump will likely be at the Shangri-La Hotel, where US presidents have stayed before, while Kim Jong-un will probably stay at the St Regis Singapore, the Straits Times newspaper reports. The two hotels are on the main island, near the famous Orchard Road shopping strip.
Sentosa is one of 63 islands that make up Singapore.
The 500-hectare island, only a short distance from the main island, is home to luxury resorts, private marinas and plush golf clubs.
The island also has a dark history of piracy, bloodshed and war.
Singapore was established as a British trading post in the 19th Century. Its prime location on the major sea route between India and China made it an ideal choice.
Even before British rule, Singapore was a flourishing trade centre, frequented by merchants and traders, as well as pirates.
Sentosa was known at that time as Pulau Blakang Mati, which directly translates as the “island behind death” – a reference to its violent piracy reputation.
The island’s population was mostly Malay, Chinese and the Bugis – seafarers originally from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
President Trump told reporters on the White House lawn: “We’ll be meeting on June 12th in Singapore. It went very well.”
“We’ve got to know their people very well,” he added.
President Trump cautioned that the summit might not achieve a final deal on North Korea’s controversial nuclear program.
“I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it’s going to be a process, but the relationships are building and that’s very positive,” President Trump said.
The historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders. President Trump has offered to help rebuild North Korea’s economy if it scraps its nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un says he is committed to “denuclearization” in some form but his precise demands are unclear.
Kim Yong-chol was scheduled to fly to New York on May 30, after speaking with Chinese officials in Beijing, Yonhap reported, citing diplomatic sources.
The former spy chief would be the most high-profile North Korean official to visit the US since 2000.
The apparent introduction of Kim Yong-chol to negotiations would be significant, as it would underline North Korea’s desire to ensure the talks go ahead.
He has been part of recent high-profile diplomatic overtures by North Korea.
Kim Yong-chol, 72, is a controversial figure in neighboring South Korea, and previously served as a negotiator in inter-Korean talks.
During his time as a military intelligence head, Kim Yong-chol was accused of being behind attacks on South Korean targets, including the torpedoing of a South Korea warship which killed 46 seamen, as well as the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.
As a result of these incidents, the US imposed personal sanctions on him in 2010 and 2015.
Despite reportedly being punished for an “overbearing attitude” in 2016, Kim Yong-chol has continued to hold senior posts in the army and party, and was the head of North Korea’s delegation to the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
He is regularly seen at Kim Jongg-un’s side and has attended meetings with the leaders of China and South Korea, and met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang.
In February, Kim Yong-chol was sent to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he sat close to President Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump.
President Trump said: “I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have the long-planned meeting.”
“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” he added.
The president called the meeting a “missed opportunity”, saying “someday, I look very much forward to meeting you”.
President Trump was apparently responding to statements from North Korea attacking his administration and casting doubt over the meeting.
Earlier today, North Korean official Choe Son-hui dismissed remarks by US Vice-President Mike Pence – who had said North Korea “may end like Libya” – as “stupid”.
Choe Son-hui, who has been involved in several diplomatic interactions with the US over the past decade, said North Korea would not “beg” for dialogue and warned of a “nuclear showdown” if diplomacy failed.
A White House official quoted by Reuters described the comments about Mike Pence as the “last straw”. They stressed, however, there was a “backdoor that’s open still”.
References to Libya have angered North Korea. There, former leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.
Exactly what that would entail has remained unclear, but North Korea has invited foreign media to witness the dismantling of its main nuclear test site later this month.
John Bolton recently said North Korea could follow a “Libya model” of verifiable denuclearization, but this alarms Pyongyang, which watched Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi give up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.
Kim Kye-gwan’s statement, carried by North Korea’s state media, said that if the US “corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks” and “will have to reconsider” attending the June 12 summit in Singapore.
The official said North Korea did have “high hopes” but that it was “very unfortunate that the US is provoking us ahead of the summit by spitting out ludicrous statements”.
He is known to be highly respected in the North Korean leadership and has taken part in negotiations with the US before. There is very little chance Kim Kye-gwan;s comments were not personally endorsed by Kim Jong-un.
Hours before the announcement, in a sign of growing problems, Pyongyang has also pulled out of a meeting scheduled with South Korea on May 16 because of anger over the start of US-South Korean joint military drills.
Pyonyang had earlier said it would allow them to go ahead, but then called them “a provocative military ruckus” which was undermining its diplomatic efforts.
The sudden change in tone from North Korea is said to have taken US officials by surprise. Analysts said Pyongyang could be trying to strengthen its hand before talks.
The US state department said it was continuing to plan the Trump-Kim meeting, and President Trump is yet to comment.
No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.
According to the White House, the American citizens detained in North Korea were freed as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit, which President Trump earlier said he thought would be a “big success”.
The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – over which Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un furiously sparred in 2017.
North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests since 2006, despite international condemnation and sanctions, saying it needs the weapons for its own security.
The US wants North Korea to give up its weapons program completely and irreversibly.
Ahead of the meeting, Kim Jong-un has pledged to stop nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, and also to shut down a nuclear test site.
However, analysts caution that Kim Jong-un is unlikely to easily abandon nuclear weapons that he has pushed so hard to obtain, and that “denuclearization” means something quite different to both sides.
The US and Singapore have a close relationship. Singapore has diplomatic ties with North Korea but suspended all trade with the country in November 2017 as international sanctions were tightened.
Other locations which had been considered for the Trump-Kim summit included Mongolia and the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ).
North Korea has historically used its foreign prisoners as leverage in its diplomatic dealings.
One of the detainees was jailed in 2015, the other two have been in prison for just over a year. Their convictions have been widely condemned as political and an abuse of human rights.
The last American to be freed – Otto Warmbier, who was jailed for stealing a hotel sign – was released last year but was fatally ill, and died shortly after returning home. The cause of death remains unexplained.
Mike Pompeo said a “good relationship” was formed at the first meeting in April, which marked the highest level US contact with North Korea since 2000.
A state department official travelling with Mike Pompeo said the US would also be “listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantially changed” with the nation’s nuclear ambitions.
Last month, President Trump stunned the international community by accepting North Korea’s suggestion for direct talks – it will be an unprecedented move for a sitting US president to meet a North Korean leader.
President Trump referred to Mike Pompeo’s latest visit while announcing that the US was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran.