North Korea still building at nuclear site: monitor

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un looks at his document at a signing ceremony with US President Donald Trump (not pictured) during their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2018
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North Korea still building at nuclear site: monitor

SEOUL: North Korea is carrying out rapid improvements to its nuclear research facility, a monitor said on Wednesday, despite declaring a commitment to denuclearization of the peninsula at the Singapore summit.
The nuclear-armed North’s leader Kim Jong Un promised to “work toward” the goal at a landmark summit in the city-state earlier this month with US President Donald Trump.
But the Singapore meeting failed to clearly define denuclearization or produce a specific timeline toward dismantling the North’s atomic weapons arsenal.
Trump claimed the process would start quickly, saying last week that “It will be a total denuclearization, which is already taking place.”
But recent satellite imagery showed that not only were operations continuing at present at the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear site, it was also carrying out infrastructure works, said the respected 38 North website.
“Commercial satellite imagery from June 21 indicates that improvements to the infrastructure at... Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace,” it said.
It noted “continued operations” at the North’s uranium enrichment plant and several new installations at the site — including an engineering office and a driveway to a building housing a nuclear reactor.
But continued operations at the site “should not be seen as having any relationship with North Korea’s pledge to denuclearise,” it added.
Nuclear officials could be “expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang,” it said.
The North last month blew up its aged but only nuclear test site at Punggye-ri — where it had staged six atomic tests — in a show of goodwill before the summit.
But Pyongyang has kept its counsel on the denuclearization issue since the meeting, although state media have dialled down propaganda against the US, long dubbed the “imperialist enemy.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been pushing for more follow-up talks to flesh out details over denuclearization but no date has been set for when they would take place.


Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

Updated 17 February 2019
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Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

  • President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval.
A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Shanahan was likely to approve the $3.6 billion being redirected from the military construction budget.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump can use certain Department of Defense funding to build the wall.
According to the law, the defense secretary has to decide whether the wall is militarily necessary before money from the military construction budget can be used.
“We always anticipated that this would create a lot of attention and since moneys potentially could be redirected, you can imagine the concern this generates,” Shanahan told reporters traveling back with him from his trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe.
“Very deliberately, we have not made any decisions, we have identified the steps we would take to make those decisions,” Shanahan said.
He added that military planners had done the initial analysis and he would start reviewing it on Sunday.
Officials have said that the administration had found nearly $7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including about $3.6 billion from the military construction budget and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund.
The US defense official said Shanahan would meet with the service secretaries in the coming days to pick which specific projects the money should come from.
Shanahan said that planners had identified the different sources of money that could be used, but he had not decided specifically what projects it would impact and ultimately it was his decision.
“I am not required to do anything,” he said.
Shanahan said he did not expect to take money away from projects like military housing.
Poor standards of military housing were highlighted by recent Reuters reporting, which described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers.
“Military housing, what’s been interesting- I’ve received a number of letters, I’ve had lots of feedback, do not jeopardize projects that are underway,” Shanahan said.
“As we step our way through the process, we’ll use good judgment,” Shanahan said.
The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration.
Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners.
“We are following the law, using the rules and we’re not bending the rules,” Shanahan said.