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(LEAD) Trump sees 'decent chance' of N.K. denuclearization

North Korea 02:57 January 31, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with U.S. think tank report; RESTRUCTURES; CHANGES headline)
By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday there is a "decent chance" of dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program, after his intelligence chief dismissed the prospect as unlikely.

At a Senate panel hearing Tuesday, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reported the findings of the U.S. intelligence community in its latest annual worldwide threat assessment.

"We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival," Coats said, referring to weapons of mass destruction.

The report was seen as contracting Trump's claims that there has been progress in denuclearizing the North since his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last June.

"North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization," the president tweeted.

This EPA file photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

This EPA file photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)

Trump has credited himself with getting North Korea to halt nuclear and missile tests, return the remains of some American troops killed in the 1950-53 Korean War, and release American prisoners.

"Time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen. Now a whole different story. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made -- big difference!" he added.

Trump and Kim are planning to hold a second summit near the end of February at a location yet to be announced.

Vietnam has reportedly been chosen to play host.

At the first summit, the two men committed to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees for Pyongyang.

Critics argue that the North has yet to demonstrate its seriousness about abandoning its nuclear weapons program.

In a report Wednesday, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank, said there has been no new dismantling activity at the missile facility in North Korea's Dongchang-ri since August.

The report cited commercial satellite imagery from Jan. 20.

Kim has committed to permanently shut down the missile engine test site and launch pad under the observation of international experts.


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