Trump pleased as NKorea seen dismantling launch site parts

US President Donald Trump walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore in this photo taken on June 12, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 July 2018
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Trump pleased as NKorea seen dismantling launch site parts

  • Analysts believe that Pyongyang could be trying to build trust with Washington as they engage in talks to resolve the nuclear standoff
  • After his summit with Kim on June 12, Trump said he was told by Kim that the North was “already destroying a major missile engine testing site” without identifying which site

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump expressed appreciation to North Korea on Tuesday following reports that Pyongyang has started to dismantle key parts of a missile test site. But Trump’s top diplomat sounded a note of caution, saying inspectors would have to confirm the development.
Trump said new satellite photos indicating the North has begun to take down facilities at the Sohae site are a sign of progress from the “fantastic” summit he held last month in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“We’re all pursuing the denuclearization of North Korea and a new future of prosperity, security and peace on the Korean Peninsula and all of Asia,” Trump told a VFW convention in Kansas City, Missouri. “New images just today show that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site and we appreciate that. We had a fantastic meeting with Chairman Kim, and it seems to be going very well.”
He spoke after the North Korea-focused 38 North website released satellite imagery taken from July 20 to July 22 that seem to show dismantlement underway at Sohae. The facilities being razed or disassembled include a rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles and a rail-mounted processing building where space launch vehicles were assembled before being moved to the launch pad, 38 North said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, expressed a note of caution. He said that while such a step would be in line with the pledges that Kim made to Trump, it would have to be confirmed by international inspectors.
“It’d be entirely consistent with the commitment that Chairman Kim made to President Trump when the two of them were in Singapore together. We made that commitment orally,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Palo Alto, California, with Defense Secretary James Mattis and their Australian counterparts.
“We’ve been pressing for there to be inspectors on the ground when that engine test facility is dismantled, consistent with Chairman Kim’s commitment,” said Pompeo, who attended the Singapore summit and has visited North Korea three times this year.
Asked what more North Korea needed to do, Pompeo replied: “That’s easy. They need to completely, fully denuclearize. That’s the steps that Chairman Kim committed to and the world has demanded through UN Security Council resolutions. It’s that straightforward.”
Analysts believe that Pyongyang could be trying to build trust with Washington as they engage in talks to resolve the nuclear standoff. But they say dismantling a few facilities at the site alone won’t realistically reduce North Korea’s military capability or represent a material step toward denuclearization.
And, like Pompeo, they expressed concern that the work is being done without verification.
After his summit with Kim on June 12, Trump said he was told by Kim that the North was “already destroying a major missile engine testing site” without identifying which site. The leaders concluded their summit by declaring their vague aspirational goal of moving toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but there’s lingering doubts on whether Kim would ever agree to fully give up the nuclear weapons that he may see as a stronger guarantee of his survival than whatever security assurances the United States can provide.


Spanish court gears up for high-stakes trial of separatists

Updated 11 min 30 sec ago
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Spanish court gears up for high-stakes trial of separatists

  • Supreme Court judges rejected similar defense appeals during the investigative stage of the case

MADRID: A preliminary hearing in a rebellion case against Catalan separatists Tuesday displayed some of the dynamics between defense and prosecutors expected during a trial that is likely to dominate Spanish politics.
Altogether, 18 former politicians and activists from the Catalonia region are charged with rebellion, sedition, disobedience and misuse of public funds for their parts in an attempt to secede from Spain last year.
At Tuesday's hearing, a panel of seven magistrates heard from defense attorneys who argued the trial should be heard by the top regional court in Catalonia rather than Spain's highest court in Madrid.
Prosecutors countered that Madrid was the proper venue, saying the events that led regional lawmakers to make a unilateral declaration of independence on Oct. 27, 2017 had ramifications outside of Catalonia.
The country's top court also has jurisdiction, prosecutors argued, because the secession attempt affected all Spaniards.
Supreme Court judges rejected similar defense appeals during the investigative stage of the case. A final decision is expected later this week.
If the top court keeps the case, former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, activist-turned-politician Jordi Sanchez and 16 other defendants are expected to appear there when the trial proceedings get underway at the end of January.
Four defendants are three weeks into a prison hunger strike to protest what they deem unfair treatment by Spain's judiciary. Central government authorities say there is no reason for the strike and the defendants' rights are guaranteed by Spain's independent judiciary.
The "trial of the century," as it's been labeled by domestic media, has taken a high political significance. Separatists in the northeastern region have made clear that they will use proceedings to prove that they are being tried for their ideas, and in particular for advancing a secessionist agenda.
In addition to prosecutors and state attorneys, a far-right party that has recently emerged in Spanish politics sits on the prosecution bench. Vox wants to use the trial to showcase its hard stance against nationalism and its defense of Spanish unity ahead of European and local elections in May next year.