'Little to no change' in North Korean capabilities: U.S. commander

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Army Gen. Robert Abrams testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee ahead of Trump's second meeting with Kim later this month in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Despite a reduction in tensions along the DMZ [demilitarized zone] and a cessation of strategic provocations coupled with public statements of intent to denuclearize little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea's military capabilities.

The comment by David Malpass, under secretary of the US Treasury for global affairs, came after Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, asked the World Bank to play a leading role in providing assistance for development of North Korea in case there is meaningful progress on denuclearisation.

While Trump has cited North Korea halting its nuclear testing and no new missile launches in 15 months as proof of progress, a report by United Nations sanctions monitors has also cast doubt on Pyongyang's intentions.

Continuing to improve their diplomatic ties after the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, North Korea, and South Korea announced their first-ever joint bid to host the 2023 Olympic games.

Amid the denuclearization talks, North Korea has reportedly continued to develop nuclear assets.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged during an unprecedented first summit with Trump last June to work towards denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.


"Seoul will cooperate with the national government so that the 2023 summer Olympics become something more than a sports festival - an opportunity to change the fate of the Korean peninsula", said Seoul mayor Park Won-soon.

Davidson also noted that North Korea had demanded "corresponding" US steps and that Kim had warned in a New Year speech of a potential "new path", which could indicate an eventual return to weapons testing, if he was not satisfied with the negotiations.

As Vietnam prepares for the summit, its reform model is being widely touted as the economic path for impoverished and isolated North Korea to follow.

The landmark summit in Singapore produced a vague commitment from Kim to work toward the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, where USA 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.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., raised concerns that Trump could make a bad trade in the talks, such as removing American troops from South Korea.

The State Department declined to comment. The North Koreans apparently focused on how Kim will get around Hanoi as well as security and protocol issues.

After the first summit, Trump tweeted that "there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea" and that "everybody can now feel much safer". "These capabilities continue to hold the United States, the Republic of Korea and our regional allies at risk".

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