Trump Scoffs at Report North Korea Has Undeclared Nuclear Sites

Academics use official footage of missile launches and visits to factories by the North's leader Kim Jong Un to gain rare insights into the progress of the country's weapons programmes

President Donald Trump continues to deny being played by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un despite new evidence North Korea still operates at least 20 clandestine missile bases whose ballistic missiles can strike at Seoul in a matter of minutes.

Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House in Seoul, said South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials had been "closely watching" the sites using military satellites and that the CSIS report contained "nothing new". "I will be the first to let you know if things go bad!"

A US think tank said on November 12 it had identified at least 13 of an estimated 20 active, undeclared missile bases inside North Korea, underscoring the challenge for American negotiators hoping to persuade Kim to give up his weapons programs.

The presidential office said that it was going too far to call the North's continued activity a "great deception" given that it had no specific agreement to dismantle or disclose the facilities mentioned in the report issued on Monday by Beyond Parallel, a group at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Washington.

Washington said it was continuing to push for denuclearisation.

A Digital Globe satellite image taken on March 29, 2018 shows an undeclared missile operating base at Sakkanmol, North Korea.

"Chairman Kim has repeatedly expressed his strong will to denuclearise", South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said after meeting the North Korean leader in September, adding that the North Korean leader wanted to "focus on economic development" as soon as possible.

"North Korea has never promised to shut down this missile base", Kim Eui-kyeom said in a statement, citing one base described in detail by the CSIS researchers.

The size of the entrances, as well as the volume of soil removed, indicates the base could house a brigade-size missile unit with up to 18 mobile launchers, the report said.

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The bases are arranged in three belts across North Korea, according to the report, with those for strategic missiles deep inside the country.

Marie Harf questioned if North Korea has given anything up, noting that they still have missiles and are just not testing them.

Less disputable is that North Korea could quickly assault South Korea, including its capital Seoul, and Japan in a crisis.

The revelation of these sites is significant because the US has been working on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been scheduled to meet Kim's right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol, in NY last week to discuss denuclearization efforts and prepare for a possible second summit, according to the State Department.

After the Singapore summit, Mr. Trump said he had achieved a major breakthrough with North Korea and that lasting denuclearization was on the horizon.

"I assume the meeting was delayed because both sides realized that significant progress is not possible at this time, due to the major differences between the USA and [North Korea] on denuclearization", said Samore.

North Korea recently warned, however, it could restart its nuclear program if the United States does not drop its campaign of "maximum pressure" and sanctions.

Nevertheless, Sigal pointed out, "It seems more likely that the missiles are conventionally-armed and part of the DPRK's effort to counter US-ROK conventional superiority", using acronyms to refer to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, respectively.

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