North Korea has yet to take any steps towards dismantling its nuclear weapons, James Mattis, the US defence secretary, confirmed on Wednesday.
Mr Mattis was speaking to reporters at the Pentagon amid ongoing questions about what North Korea has committed to giving up after a vaguely worded statement at last week’s Singapore summit committed Pyongyang to complete denuclearisation without any clarity on steps or a timeline.
"Obviously, it’s the very front end of a process. The detailed negotiations have not begun," said Mr Mattis, according to Yonhap. "I wouldn’t expect that at this point."
The US, which pledged to “provide security guarantees” to North Korea in Singapore, this week announced it had called off plans for August joint military drills with South Korea and several allies in the region.
“Consistent with President Trump’s commitment and in concert with our Republic of Korea ally, the United States military has suspended all planning for this August’s defensive ‘wargame’ (Freedom Guardian),” said Dana White, chief Pentagon spokesperson.
“We are still coordinating additional actions. No decisions on subsequent wargames have been made.”
The defence secretary said he would visit Seoul and Beijing next week to “sort out the way ahead” and he is expected to hold talks with Song Young-moo, the South Korean defence minister.
Before his departure, Mr Mattis is scheduled to discuss the details with Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, and John Bolton, the national security adviser.
In an interview on Wednesday with Fox News, Mr Bolton said North Korea was facing a “decisive and dramatic choice” on whether to give up its nuclear programme and ballistic missiles.
“I think the first move here is really for North Korea to make,” he said. “They’ve said they want complete denuclearisation. Now we are going to have to talk about how to achieve that, and I think you will see diplomatic engagement proceed very quickly.”
US officials have reportedly confirmed some movement from Pyongyang, however.
CBS reported that a test site North Korea pledged to destroy at the Singapore summit has been identified as one in Cholsan county, North Pyongan province, which is more commonly known as the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground.
Mr Trump referred to the promise in his remarks following the unprecedented meeting, although he did not specifically name it, and no clear timetable for its closure has been given.
Experts believe the site, one of the largest in the country, was used to develop the Hwasong-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile said to be capable of reaching the US mainland.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang also appears to be in the process of fulfiling another summit commitment, to return the remains of American prisoners and those missing in action after the 1950-53 Korean War.
Mr Trump said on Wednesday that the remains of 200 US troops had already been returned, although there has been no official confirmation of his claim from military authorities.
“We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains sent back today, already 200 got sent back,” Mr Trump told his supporters at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota.
US officials on Tuesday had revealed that a “sizeable number” of remains would be handed over to the United Nations Command in South Korea, before being transferred to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. More than 36,500 US troops died in the war, and about 7,700 military personnel remain unaccounted for.
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