As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met North Korean officials in Pyongyang Friday to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a South Korean lawmaker said the North appears to be working on a new submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles.
A member of South Korea’s official opposition party said the North’s nuclear and missile facilities are continuing to function despite Kim Jong Un’s pledge to work towards de-nuking his country, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
“Nothing has changed in North Korea,” Kim Hack-yong said in a statement. “Contrary to our military’s suspension of joint Korea-U.S. military exercises, North Korea is conducting military exercises on a scale similar to previous years.”
The lawmaker served as a chairman of the parliamentary defense committee, and was recently briefed on the North’s military activities, the South Korean news agency reported.
“The military is also strengthening ideological education, such as holding anti-American discussions,” Kim Hack-yong said.
The Liberty Korea Party member also noted that it appears the North showed signs of building a new submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles. The work is being carried out at its Sinpo shipyard on the east coast, he said.
The lawmaker’s remarks come as Pompeo met with officials to “fill in” details on how to dismantle the North’s nuclear program and recover the remains of U.S. troops missing from the Korean War.
On June 12, U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean dictator pledged the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula following a historic meeting between the two leaders.
Late last month, 38 North, a U.S.-based North Korea watchdog, reported the North was making improvements at one of the country’s nuclear research centres at a “rapid pace” despite Kim’s pledge to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. Satellite imagery captured on June 21 suggests the North is continuing to upgrade infrastructure at its Yongbyon nuclear scientific research centre.
In 38 North’s latest analysis, the watchdog notes that the nuclear site’s plutonium production cooling system appears to have been completed while several buildings in and around the centre have been erected.
North Korea has consistently refused in past rounds of failed negotiations to provide an inventory of its weapons program, and U.S. intelligence remains uncertain of how many nuclear warheads North Korea has.
Kim Hack-yong said the South should continue to strengthen its military to put pressure on the North to commit to de-nuking.
“While the unification ministry and the foreign ministry move forward with denuclearization discussions aimed at scrapping North Korea’s nuclear program, the defense ministry should further strengthen military preparedness so as to use it as a pressure card in negotiations with the North,” Kim said.
–with a file from Reuters
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