President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised recent satellite images showing North Korea beginning the dismantling of key facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on the country’s northwest coast.
“We appreciated that,” Trump said of the images first reported by the U.S.-based North Korea monitoring group 38 North.
The satellite images show the dismantling of a rail-mounted processing building, where space launch vehicles are assembled before being moved to the launch pad, and the nearby rocket engine test stand, where liquid-fuel engines are developed for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, 38 North said.
38 North analyst Joseph Bermudez called the move an “important first step towards fulfilling a commitment” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made during his summit with Trump in Singapore.
“We had a fantastic meeting with Chairman Kim and it seems to be going very well,” Trump said Tuesday.
A day after the summit last month, Trump said in a tweet:
But their agreement contained no details about when or how North Korea would abandon its nuclear weapons program or shut down its existing nuclear facilities. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Pyongyang recently with North Korean officials to try to advance discussions, but there appeared to be little progress. Some diplomats say the North Koreans have canceled meetings and failed to maintain basic communications with the U.S.
Trump has publicly professed satisfaction at the pace of negotiations with North Korea, saying last week there was “no rush” in completing talks because U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions against Pyongyang remained in place.
On Monday, the U.S. State, Treasury and Homeland Security departments said, “The international community cannot let up on pressure” until North Korea ends its nuclear weapons program.
Trump said last week that U.S. relations with North Korea “are very good and the process is moving along.” He tweeted that with eventual denuclearization, there would be “big benefits and exciting future for North Korea at end of process!”
But several news outlets have reported in recent days that behind the scenes at the White House, Trump has voiced his displeasure to aides at the pace of talks in pushing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.