(Bloomberg) -- The commander of U.S. forces in South Korea cited a “palpable” decline in tensions amid U.S.-North Korean peace talks but cautioned there’s little evidence that Kim Jong Un is willing to give up his nuclear arsenal.
“Today is Day 440 since the last strategic provocation” by North Korea through a missile or nuclear test, Army General Robert Abrams told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. That’s meant “a marked reduction in tensions” on the Korean Peninsula, he said, and a reduced risk of miscalculation.
While Abrams credited President Donald Trump’s talks with Kim, which will resume in a second summit meeting in Hanoi on Feb. 27-28, as contributing to the improved atmosphere, he offered little optimism that Trump’s efforts will lead to his goal of a nuclear-free North Korea.
“I remain clear-eyed,” Abrams said, that “little to no verifiable change has occurred in North Korea’s military capabilities.”
In a written statement to the committee, Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, was even more direct, echoing a finding by U.S. intelligence agencies last month that Kim views his nuclear weapons as indispensable to maintaining his autocratic power.
“We think it is unlikely that North Korea will give up all of its nuclear weapons or production capabilities but seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization in exchange for U.S. and international concessions," he said.
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said “we have to be skeptical” unless North Korea offers a full inventory of its nuclear capabilities. a demand the Trump administration has put off for later in its back-and-forth with Pyongyang.
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