The United States is watching North Korean activities "unblinkingly" amid speculation that the regime could be preparing for another missile test, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday.
Last week saw a series of reports by South Korea's National Intelligence Service and two U.S. think tanks about rebuilding activity at the North's missile launch site in Dongchang-ri.
U.S. news media then reported on increased activity at the missile facility in Sanum-dong, which fed speculation the North is preparing to launch a missile or satellite into space.
"There's a lot of activity all the time in North Korea, but I'm not going to speculate on what that particular commercial satellite picture shows," Bolton said on ABC News, referring to images of the North's missile sites.
"We see exactly what they're doing now. We see it unblinkingly, and we don't have any illusions about what their capabilities are," he said.
The imagery comes after U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un came away from their second summit in Vietnam last month with no agreement on denuclearizing the regime in exchange for sanctions relief.
Trump said repeatedly last week that he would be "disappointed" if the reported activities were true but refrained from jumping to any conclusion.
Bolton reiterated that the president is open to meeting the North Korean leader a third time, although no details have been set.
"It's possible that North Korea will go back and rethink the position they came in with and come back to talk to the president about the big deal," he said in a separate interview on Fox News, referring to what he has said was Trump's proposal to Kim to exchange all of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program for the possibility of a "brighter future" for the country.
Asked if the U.S. has asked the North about the satellite imagery or whether there's been contact since the Hanoi summit, Bolton said he wasn't aware of any, adding that it's possible South Korea has communicated with the North.
He said he plans to speak with his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong, on Monday morning.
Bolton rejected any step-by-step approach to North Korea's denuclearization, under which the U.S. would provide concessions along the way.
He said that with sanctions on Pyongyang, the leverage is on the U.S. side, not on North Korea's.
"The marginal benefit to North Korea of economic relief is far greater than the marginal benefit to us of partial denuclearization," he said. "So that's why action-for-action almost inevitably in the past three administrations has worked to North Korea's benefit. And as I say, over (a) 25-plus-year period they never seem to get to denuclearization. Isn't that interesting?"(Yonhap)