WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is falsely crediting his Singapore summit with the destruction of missile launch sites in North Korea. No such action has been announced by the North Koreans.
Trump tweeted Sunday in response to criticisms last week from Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Democratic leader, that the summit was all show, no substance, or as the Democrat put it in Senate remarks, “what the Texans call all cattle, no hat.” He meant all hat, no cattle.
The president countered with some demonstrably bad information.
TRUMP: “No more nuclear testing or rockets flying all over the place, blew up launch sites. Hostages already back, hero remains coming home & much more!”
THE FACTS: This much is true: North Korea announced the suspension of nuclear-weapons testing and testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles in April, to soften the ground for the diplomatic opening with South Korea and the U.S. North Korea has not conducted a missile test since Nov. 28.
But it remains in possession of fissile material for a dozen to 60 nuclear bombs, independent experts say. Last year, it tested long-range missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland, although it’s not certain that the North has mastered the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead that could re-enter the atmosphere and hit its target.
The summit produced a general agreement from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but there were no specific commitments on eliminating or even reducing his country’s nuclear arsenal.
As for Trump’s other points:
—North Korea has not said it blew up launch sites. Before the summit, it destroyed something else — its test site for underground nuclear blasts. Journalists witnessed the demolition of three tunnels and nearby buildings. The site may have already been compromised by the earlier, nuclear explosions and its destruction was one step among many that would be needed to achieve denuclearization.
If anything has been done to pull back on missile launch sites, it’s marginal at best. Officials have not verified reports that North Korea may have demolished a stand used for missile-ejection tests in May. Ejection tests are a limited step short of a full-blown launch.
—Three American detainees, called hostages by Trump, were sent home in May, the latest in a series of U.S. citizens to be freed in recent years with the intervention of high-level U.S. officials. One had been sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labour after being convicted of espionage. The other two had been held for about a year and apparently not been tried.
As well, Otto Warmbier, a student sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour for stealing a propaganda poster, died in June 2017, days after he arrived back in the U.S. with severe brain damage.
—Trump is premature in tweeting about “hero remains coming home.” This may happen, as Kim agreed to work toward the return of U.S. troops missing in North Korea from the Korean War. But as of Friday, no remains have been repatriated from North Korea since 2007.
Trump has falsely claimed that this mission has been accomplished, telling reporters Friday: “He gave us the remains of our great heroes.”
About 5,300 U.S. troops are still unaccounted for from North Korea. Trump has inflated the numbers of troops who are missing in the North and whose returns are bound to be located and returned more than 60 years after the conflict. About 2,400 are still missing from South Korea.
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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures