Weeks before a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the top U.S. military commander for Asia on Tuesday echoed an intelligence assessment that North Korea is unlikely to give up all its nuclear weapons.
Although he expressed optimism about the Feb. 27-28 Hanoi summit in verbal testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the Indo-Pacific Command, expressed doubts about North Korean intentions in his written submission to the panel.
“USINDOPACOM’s assessment on North Korean denuclearization is consistent with the Intelligence Community position. That is, we think it is unlikely that North Korea will give up all of its nuclear weapons or production capabilities, but seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization in exchange for U.S. and international concessions,” he said.
Last month, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress he believed it was unlikely North Korea would give up all its nuclear weapons and that it had continued activity inconsistent with pledges to denuclearize.
Trump has been eager for a second summit with Kim even though their first meeting in Singapore in June produced only vague commitments from Kim and little concrete progress since.
While Trump has cited North Korea halting its nuclear testing and no new missile launches in 15 months as proof of progress, a report by U.N. sanctions monitors has also cast doubt on Pyongyang’s intentions.
Pyongyang “is using civilian facilities, including airports, for ballistic missile assembly and testing with the goal of effectively preventing ‘decapitation’ strikes” on a smaller number of identified nuclear and missile assembly and manufacturing sites,” the U.N. report said.
The White House declined comment on Davidson’s remarks. A State Department spokeswoman said it remained confident the Singapore summit commitments would be fulfilled, and added: “It is Chairman Kim’s commitment to denuclearization upon which the world is focused.”