With a second summit looming between North Korea and the United States, the U.S. commander stationed in South Korea said Tuesday that there has been "little to no verifiable change" of North Korea's nuclear capabilities within the past year.
Speaking at the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Robert Abrams said that the June summit between the two countries helped ease tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.
But Abrams said that despite Pyongyang's reduction in hostile rhetoric, the North Korean military remains "formidable and dangerous, with no discernable differences in the assessed force structure, readiness, or lethality my predecessor reported in 2018."
Abrams said the security situation demands an "appropriately postured and ready force."
North Korea, which has a population of roughly 25 million, has one of the world's largest military forces.
"North Korea's conventional and asymmetric military capabilities, along with their continued development of advanced conventional systems, remains unchecked," Abrams said, adding that North Korea's nuclear capabilities put the U.S., South Korea and its allies at risk.
The June summit between North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump produced what many believed were vague assurances of nuclear disarmament. However, Trump stated that the summit left many "impressed" with Kim's promises of denuclearization.
"We both want to do something. We both are going to do something. And we have developed a very special bond," Trump said. "People are going to be very impressed. People are going to be very happy."
Along with the promise of North Korean denuclearization, the U.S. agreed to end extensive military exercises with South Korea. Lower-scale exercises are still practiced — a move which Abrams has called "necessary."
Abrams claimed there have been "no significant changes to size, scope or timing of [North Korea's] ongoing exercises compared to the same time period over the last four years."
Trump and Kim's second summit is scheduled to take place in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, from Feb. 27 to 28. Both leaders are expected to clarify terms from the June summit.