Two weeks before a second summit between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, the commander of US forces in South Korea has said he has seen “little to no verifiable change” in Pyongyang’s military capabilities following last year’s first meeting.
The landmark summit in Singapore produced a vague commitment from Kim to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, where US troops have been stationed since the 1950-53 Korean War. Progress, however, has stalled with the two sides disagreeing over what Kim’s pledge means.
General Robert Abrams, the new head of US Forces Korea, said on Tuesday the summit had helped dial down tensions on the Korean Peninsula but had not led to substantive changes.
“Little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea’s military capabilities,” Abrams told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Further, North Korea’s conventional and asymmetric military capabilities, along with their continued development of advanced conventional systems, remains unchecked. These capabilities continue to hold the United States, the Republic of Korea and our regional allies at risk.”
Abrams added that North Korea was continuing its winter military training at historical norms.
Trump and Kim are set to meet in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, from February 27 to 28 for their second summit.
Analysts say tangible progress on denuclearisation will be needed if the talks are to avoid being dismissed as “reality TV”.
After that first summit, Trump called off large-scale joint exercises with South Korea.
Abrams said “it is necessary to maintain a postured and ready force to deter any possible aggressive actions,” but stressed that the two allied militaries continue to train together at a lower level.
There are currently about 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea.