North Korea may have made more nuclear bombs, but threat reduced

The Associated Press

Abrams, Davidson and several Republican Armed Services Committee members endorsed the president's second summit, saying they hoped to see the North Koreans commit to dismantling their nuclear programs transparently.

The Stanford experts said it was their assessment that "North Korea can not deliver a nuclear warhead with any measure of confidence to the US mainland", although Hecker said its nuclear weapons were a real threat to Japan and South Korea.

The comment by David Malpass, under secretary of the US Treasury for worldwide affairs, came after Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, asked the World Bank to play a leading role in providing assistance for development of North Korea in case there is meaningful progress on denuclearisation.

Following his first meeting with Kim, Trump abruptly announced he would cancel large-scale military training exercises in South Korea.

President Donald Trump's pick to lead the World Bank vowed yesterday to cooperate with South Korea on developing North Korea and other various sectors, the finance ministry here said.

The White House declined comment on Davidson's remarks.

Amid the denuclearization talks, North Korea has reportedly continued to develop nuclear assets. A top US commander says he's seen little to no change in North Korea's military readiness or a slowdown in its nuclear weapons program since President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met for nuclear talks previous year.

However, he said that action was reversible and added: "Much needs to be done to make meaningful progress".

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Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the U.S. Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico who is now at Stanford and was one of the report's authors, told Reuters analysis of satellite imagery showed North Korea's production of bomb fuel continued in 2018.

Kim pledged in Singapore to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and in September expressed willingness to permanently dismantle facilities at his country's main nuclear site of Yongbyon - in return for corresponding US moves.

"With only two weeks until the summit, it will be hard to resolve all the tricky issues, but there's a chance if we can agree on a timeline (for denuclearization)", a South Korean delegation member quoted Biegun as saying.

Yonhap quoted South Korea's presidential office as saying that Biegun planned to meet the North Koreans again in an Asian country next week. If it goes ahead, it will be the first state visit by a North Korean leader since Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, back in 1964.

However, it said North Korea's freeze in nuclear and missile testing since 2017 mean its weapons program probably poses less of a threat than it did at the end of that year.

Hecker said it was understandable that North Korea should have continued its weapons work, given that it had reached no specific agreement in the latest talks with the United States to stop that work.

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