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Trump claims he’s known about 16 ‘secret’ North Korean missile bases after NYT report

President Donald Trump talks on the phone aboard Air Force One during a flight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address a joint gathering of House and Senate Republicans, Thursday, January 26, 2017. This was the President’s first trip aboard Air Force One. (Shealah Craighead/White House)
November 13, 2018

President Donald Trump on Tuesday refuted a report by The New York Times that there were 16 “secret” ballistic missile bases in North Korea, this after a satellite image report was released on Monday by a Washington think tank.

“The story in the New York Times concerning North Korea developing missile bases is inaccurate. We fully know about the sites being discussed, nothing new – and nothing happening out of the normal. Just more Fake News. I will be the first to let you know if things go bad,” Trump tweeted.

The New York Times had reported on a new report Monday that shows satellite images indicating North Korea is still developing ballistic missiles that could hold nuclear warheads at 16 secret military bases, including at least one not previously identified.

The Beyond Parallel program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies identified the bases in its report while stating, “These missile operating bases, which can be used for all classes of ballistic missile from short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) up to and including intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), would presumably have to be subject to declaration, verification and dismantlement in any final and fully verifiable denuclearization deal.” The report also points out that the missile operating bases “are not launch facilities.”

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A satellite image analyst and co-author of the report, Joseph Bermudez Jr., told The New York Times that the effort North Korea has put into the bases “is impressive.”

“It looks like they’re trying to maximize their capabilities. Any missile at these bases can take a nuclear warhead,” he told the Times.

Meanwhile, South Korea said this report is “nothing new” and that the characterization of the missile activity is a “great deception,” as North Korea has never promised to dismantle its military bases, a South Korean spokesman for President Moon Jae-in told the Times.

“North Korea has never promised to dismantle its missile bases, nor has it ever joined any treaty that obligates it to dismantle them. So calling this a ‘deception’ is not appropriate,” spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said. “If anything, the existence of these missile bases highlights the need for negotiation and dialogue, including those between the North and the United States, to eliminate the North Korean threat.”

The U.S. earlier this month abruptly delayed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s high-level talk on denuclearization with a top North Korean official in New York City, citing scheduling as the issue but not saying when the meeting would be rescheduled.

This came amid rhetoric from North Korea that the U.S. should ease up on sanctions if its wants to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula – tensions between North Korea and the U.S. recently rose when North Korea threatened to resume its nuclear weapons program if the U.S. doesn’t lift economic sanctions.

Pompeo had in October met again with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and said the meeting was “productive.”

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Kim had later in the day agreed to a second summit with President Donald Trump at the “earliest possible date.”

However, earlier this month, North Korea threatened to possibly restart its nuclear weapons program if the United States doesn’t lift economic sanctions. Trump said in September that sanctions will remain in effect against North Korea until denuclearization takes place.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been in the international spotlight throughout the year, and it was a major theme of the Trump-Kim summit this past June.

When he spoke at the United Nations earlier this year, Trump said he and Kim had “highly productive conversations and meetings,” and they had agreed it was in both parties’ best interests to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

And, the second U.S.-North Korea summit with Kim Jong Un is probably happening “quite soon,” Trump had told reporters that week.

The President has also pointed out how his relationship with Kim has improved since last year, when it felt like every other week there were reports of North Korea firing off nuclear missile tests.

The State Department gave the following statement to the Times this week: “President Trump has made clear that should Chairman Kim follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people.”

This headline has been edited to reflect that the President “claims” rather than “says.”