U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday welcomed reports that North Korea has begun to dismantle a key missile testing site in line with a pledge North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made at their historic summit last month.
Trump was speaking to Monday's report from 38 North, a U.S. website specializing in North Korea analysis, which cited last week's satellite imagery as showing the dismantlement of facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station.
"New images just today show that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site and we appreciate that," the president said at a national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Missouri. "We had a fantastic meeting with Chairman Kim and it seems to be going very well."
38 North's article came as progress has reportedly been slow to implement a nuclear deal reached by Trump and Kim at their meeting in Singapore June 12. The U.S. president has vehemently denied that he is frustrated with the pace of the negotiations, tweeting Monday that he was "very happy" with how they were going.
The agreement committed the North Korean leader to the "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S. But the North Koreans have since made clear that they are not interested in a unilateral dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program.
Dismantling the missile test site was a promise Kim made verbally at his meeting with Trump, according to the U.S. president. The 38 North article said work has begun on a rail-mounted processing building, which is used to assemble space launch vehicles before they are moved to the launch pad, and a rocket engine test stand that has been used to build liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles.
In a joint statement after the summit, the North Korean leader also agreed to recover and return the remains of American soldiers killed in the 1950-53 Korean War.
"I know we're joined today by many incredible veterans of the Korean War. Thank you for your courageous service," Trump said. "As you may know, we're also working to bring back the remains of your brothers in arms who gave their lives to Korea, and I hope that very soon these fallen warriors will begin coming home to lay at rest in American soil."
U.S. and North Korean officials have held several meetings to discuss the return of the remains, with some media reporting the first batch will be delivered Friday. No official announcement on the date has been made.
"At the very end of our meeting, I said to Chairman Kim -- good relationship, good feeling -- I said, 'I would really appreciate if you could do that,'" Trump said, referring to the repatriation of the remains. "He said, 'It will be done.' So I was very happy, and I think that process is starting fairly soon, we hope."
The dismantling of the missile site, if true, would be "entirely consistent" with what the North Koreans agreed to at the summit, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
"We've been pressing for there to be inspectors on the ground when that engine test facility is dismantled, consistent with Chairman Kim's commitment," the U.S. point man for North Korea said at a news conference with his Australian counterpart in Stanford, California.
On what additional steps he would like to see from North Korea, Pompeo said the answer was "easy."
"They need to completely, fully denuclearize. That's the steps that Chairman Kim committed to and that the world has demanded through U.N. Security Council resolutions. It's that straightforward," he said.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert added to Pompeo's call for inspectors on the ground.
"Verification is obviously something that is paramount," she said at a regular press briefing. "Verification from legitimate groups and done by legitimate countries is something that the United States government will be looking for." (yonhap)