US: North Korean nuke work 'inconsistent' with disarmament

The commander of U.S. and allied forces in South Korea is telling Congress that North Korean production of nuclear weapons materials and missiles is "inconsistent" with its broad pledge to denuclearize

Asked by Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the panel's ranking Republican, where there has been any recent change in the North's production of nuclear weapons and material and missiles, Abrams said, "Their activity that we've observed is inconsistent with denuclearization." Abrams offered to provide details of that activity in a closed session.

At their follow-up summit in Hanoi last month, the two leaders failed to agree on a way ahead. North Korean officials said afterward that Kim would decide soon whether to continue talks with the United States on his nuclear program and whether to continue his self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear devices and launching ballistic missiles.

At Wednesday's hearing, Randall Shriver, the Pentagon's top Asia policy official, echoed Abrams' remarks about a lack of movement toward North Korean denuclearization.

"On our core area of interest and concern — the issue of denuclearization — we have not seen any progress to speak of," Shriver said. He added, "We're disappointed that they haven't come to the table in a serious manner."

Abrams said he is encouraged by what he called a significant reduction in tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the past year.

"There is a palpable air of calm," Abrams said. Over the past 14 months the U.S. and North Korea have moved, he said, "from provocation to detente."

The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea and is obliged to come to the South's defense in the event it is attacked by the North.