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Summary of external news of North Korea this week

All News 16:00 May 08, 2020

SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of external news of North Korea this week.

U.S., S. Korea remain ready to defend against N. Korea: Pentagon

WASHINGTON, May 1 (Yonhap) -- The United States and South Korea remain prepared to defend against North Korea and have continued to train their troops amid unconfirmed reports about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's ill health, the Pentagon said Friday.

"We are always prepared to fight tonight," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said during a press briefing, referencing a slogan of the allied forces.

"We've continued with training, we've continued with exercising, we've continued with efforts up there to be prepared for whatever may happen in North Korea," he said, adding he has nothing to add to the speculation about Kim's health.

Trump says he is glad to see N.K. leader 'back and well'

WASHINGTON, May 2 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that he is glad to see North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "back and well" following rumors he was gravely ill or even dead.

Kim was shown in North Korean state media a day earlier, ending a 20-day absence from public view that sparked intense speculation about his whereabouts and health.

"I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!" Trump wrote in a retweet of what appeared to be a scholar's tweet embedded with photos of Kim at a May 1 ceremony marking the completion of a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang.

Pompeo reaffirms U.S. mission to denuke N.K. after Kim's return to public eye

WASHINGTON/SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has renewed Washington's goal of denuclearizing North Korea and creating a "bright future" for its people after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's return to the public eye following his 20-day absence.

In an interview with ABC News' "This Week" on Sunday, Pompeo also cast the two Koreas' recent exchange of gunfire, which was triggered by the North's gunshots, as "accidental" amid worries that the flare-up of tensions could undercut efforts to resume dialogue with Pyongyang.

"Our mission has remained the same, to convince the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons, to verify the same, and to then create a brighter future for the North Korean people," the secretary said.

N. Korea views nuclear program as essential, but may give up 'some' capabilities: U.S. intel chief nominee

WASHINGTON, May 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea continues to view its nuclear program as "essential" to the protection of its regime, but may be willing to give up "some" nuclear and missile capabilities in exchange for sanctions relief and other gains, the nominee to be U.S. director of national intelligence said Tuesday.

John Ratcliffe's assessment suggests that North Korea is unlikely to completely dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile programs as the U.S. has insisted North Korea agreed to do during the first summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June 2018.

"Based on what I have seen as a member of HPSCI and on briefings, I believe that North Korea continues to view nuclear weapons as essential to protect the regime from military action and to gain standing in the international community," Ratcliffe wrote in response to questions from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ahead of his nomination hearing Tuesday.

N. Korea apparently nearing completion of ballistic missile support facility: expert

WASHINGTON, May 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to be nearing completion of a ballistic missile facility with the capacity to test-fire intercontinental ballistic missiles, an expert with a U.S. think tank said Tuesday.

The Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility, which was "previously undisclosed," is approximately 17 kilometers northwest of Pyongyang and close to Pyongyang International Airport, Joseph Bermudez wrote in a report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His conclusions are based on satellite imagery.

"A new facility is nearing completion near Pyongyang International Airport that is almost certainly related to North Korea's expanding ballistic missile program," he wrote. "A high-bay building within the facility is large enough to accommodate an elevated Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile and, therefore, the entirety of North Korea's known ballistic missile variants."

Pompeo: U.S. has confirmed N.K. leader is alive

WASHINGTON, May 7 (Yonhap) -- The United States has confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is alive, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, after Kim reappeared in state media footage last week following intense speculation he was gravely ill or possibly dead.

"Yeah, we think he's alive," Pompeo said in an interview on the podcast, "The Chris Stigall Show," when asked if the U.S. has confirmed whether Kim was alive or dead.

He didn't go into detail except to say that President Donald Trump reminded him to remain focused on the goal of dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

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