The commander of U.S. Forces Korea said Saturday that North Korea has “signaled a change in direction,” insisting that the U.S. will take North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “at his word.”
North Korea has “signaled a change in direction” since its last weapons test in November 2017.
“(It is) perhaps a change in calculus that we had been looking for,” Gen. Vincent Brooks said at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.
The North Korean leader “has really demonstrated he is a man of his word in a number of ways,” the general said, noting that North Korea has “gone now 235 days without a provocation.”
“We will take him at his word,” he added, “The lack of trust is the enemy we now have to defeat.”
The North’s last weapons test occurred on Nov. 29, 2017 and involved the new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile — a powerful weapon theoretically able to range the entire continental U.S.
The general acknowledged reports that North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development programs are still operational, but he expressed optimism, arguing that,while the North may still be advancing its weapons programs, the desire to use the weapons developed has changed.
“We haven’t seen a complete shutdown of production yet. We have not seen a removal of fuel rods. These types of things tell us there are still steps that must be taken on the road to denuclearization,” Brooks said.
“To be sure, the physical threats and capabilities are still in place, but it’s evident in words and actions that the intent to use them has changed.”
In the lead up to the historic summit between President Donald Trump and Kim in Singapore, the North took several positive steps, including the demolition of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site — the extent of the damage is unclear — the release of three American prisoners, and Kim’s decision to end weapons testing as long as talks are ongoing.
But since the June 12 summit, where the president agreed to cancel “provocative” war games with South Korea as a gesture of goodwill toward the North, Pyongyang has been uncooperative.
The North has bristled at attempts by U.S. negotiators to establish a plan for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, strongly criticizing the U.S. attitude as “cancerous” and “gangster-like.”
The North also failed to show for a meeting with U.S. officials at the inter-Korean border aimed at facilitating the return of the remains of U.S. war dead.
The transfer, which has yet to happen, was expected several weeks ago.
While Trump insists that talks with North Korea are “going well,” the president reportedly often expresses his frustration with the lack of progress on the North Korea issue in private, The Washington Post revealed Saturday, citing around half a dozen White House officials and aides.