Mattis: Sanctions Stay on N. Korea Until Denuclearization Progress

Mattis: Sanctions Stay on N. Korea Until Denuclearization Progress

As Washington pursues a negotiated end to Pyongyang's nuclear program, US officials believe there was some dissent in the military about Kim's negotiations with South Korea and the United States, a complete reversal of the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons and historic hostility.

Kim Jong Un has reportedly fired North Korea's top three military generals in what appears to be an attempt to quash dissent ahead of a summit with Donald Trump.

It was unclear when the changes were carried out, but plans to replace Kim Jong Gak were reported in the North Korean media last month, Yonhap said.

The officials who reportedly were dropped are from some of the highest reaches of the North's military structure, including Ri Myong Su, the chief of general staff for the Korean People's Army.

But South Korean analysts who spoke to local newspaper Chosun Ilbo say Kim is making the move not necessarily to remove disloyal personnel, but to mitigate the risk of opposition from officers who oppose denuclearization.

North Korea's nuclear weapons program has been a source of major security tensions that persisted despite a series of United Nations and USA sanctions and it has also demonstrated advances in ballistic missile technology that experts believe now threatens the US mainland.

The Trump administration hopes the Singapore summit will bring clear pledges from Kim to being rolling back the country's nuclear program.

"We discussed the issue of South Koreans detained in North Korea, and South Korea raised the issue first".

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He was among those involved in the purge and execution of Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle, Jang Song Thaek, in December 2013.

Trump wants North Korea to "denuclearize" in return for relief from economic sanctions.

First lady Melania Trump isn't joining her husband at the G7 summit in Quebec this week or planning to accompany him to the expected meeting with North Korea's leader in Singapore the week after, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said Sunday.

South Korea's unification ministry confirmed Kim Su Gil's appointment but declined to comment on the others.

Other replaced officials include Pak Yong Sik and Ri Myong Su. "One thing they do is rotate people around, so nobody gets too comfortable", said Tharp.

Lower-level U.S. -North Korean talks to prepare for the summit are continuing but have made only "halting progress", according to a second U.S. official briefed on the discussions.

"North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearisation".

"If they think it enhances their legitimacy, then they certainly don't have a good understanding of the worldwide community, and certainly what the U.S. is going to think about it", he said.

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