Trump says N.Korea missile work 'normal'

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

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged during a historic June meeting in Singapore that they would work toward denuclearization, but they pledged little specifics in achieving their goal.

"We fully know about the sites being discussed, nothing new - and nothing happening out of the normal", Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

In a separate report released this week, CSIS said: "After extensive research, including interviews with North Korean defectors and government, defence and intelligence officials around the world, many of these issues have been addressed and it appears that the KPA now has approximately 15-20 missile operating bases".

The 13 undeclared North Korean missile operating bases were identified Monday by Beyond Parallel, a program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS. Trump expressed confidence in Kim's denuclearization promises, even amid skepticism in Washington.

South Korea's top nuclear envoy is seeking to visit Washington as early as next week to discuss the launch of a "working group" with the United States for closer coordination on North Korea's denuclearization, diplomatic sources in Seoul said Wednesday.

"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 CSIS report used satellite imagery to locate the site of "undeclared" North Korean missile bases, notably Sakkanmol, an operational missile base equipped with short-range ballistic missiles that could "easily accommodate" medium-range ballistic warheads. "The summit agreements are so terse that they haven't gotten to any details which would require North Korea to do any of the things it's required to do under the United Nations resolutions". South Korea's National Intelligence Service said late last month there were "signs" the regime was preparing to allow "outside experts" to survey the country's Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

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The bases, which are scattered across the country, are located in underground facilities tunneled in narrow mountain valleys, according to the researchers.

Mr Trump has said he hopes to meet again soon with Kim, but there are signs of growing friction in the negotiations with North Korean officials, which appear to have stalled.

Kim formally reaffirmed the commitment to permanently shutting down an engine testing facility and launch pad during a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to meet with top North Korean officials in NY last week, but the North Koreans canceled.

The report comes as talks between the USA and North Korea hit another snag last week, with a NY meeting between Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and the top negotiator from Pyongyang canceled at the last minute. "Kim Jong Un only committed voluntarily to halt long-range missile tests".

An official with South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff also told reporters that Seoul is "familiar" with the sites identified in the report but declined to confirm whether intelligence had indicated any recent changes at the bases. Administration officials say they are trying to reschedule the meeting.

"I continue to believe that Pyongyang does not intend to give up its nuclear weapons capability", said Revere.

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