WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that North Korea was blowing up four of its big test sites and that a process of “total denuclearization … has already started taking place.”
Speaking at a meeting of his Cabinet at the White House, Trump said: “They’ve stopped the sending of missiles, including ballistic missiles. They’re destroying their engine site. They’re blowing it up. They’ve already blown up one of their big test sites, in fact it’s actually four of their big test sites.
“And the big thing is it will be a total denuclearization, which has already started taking place.”
Asked on Wednesday whether North Korea has done anything toward denuclearization since a landmark summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters:
“No, I’m not aware of that. I mean, obviously, it’s the very front end of a process. The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point.”
Mattis was sat next to Trump at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.
The U.S.-based North Korea monitoring group 38 North said in an analysis at the end of last week there had been no sign of any activity toward dismantling Sohae or any other missile test site.
Trump, who has been leading an international drive to press North Korea to abandon development of nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States, told reporters after the June 12 summit that Kim had pledged to dismantle one of his missile installations.
A U.S. official said on Wednesday that the site Trump referred to then was the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, a major facility in the western part of the country that has been used for testing engines for long-range missiles.
North Korea announced ahead of the Singapore summit the suspension of its ICBM testing and also closed its nuclear bomb test site. U.S. officials, however, have cautioned that such actions are reversible.
Reporting by Jim Oliphant, David Brunnstrom, Idrees Ali and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish