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US Downplays North Korean Missile Launches


FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference, April 22, 2019, at the Department of State in Washington.
FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference, April 22, 2019, at the Department of State in Washington.

The U.S. on Sunday downplayed North Korea's short-range missile launches, saying it believes there still is an opportunity to reach an agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told ABC News "This Week" that the barrage of projectiles Pyongyang launched into waters off its shores did not cross over any other country.

"We still believe there's an opportunity" for an agreement with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program, the top U.S. diplomat said, and "hope" that the missile launch watched by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "won't get in the way."

President Donald Trump said Saturday he thinks a deal with Kim will still occur. On Twitter, Trump said Kim "fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen."

Pompeo said the U.S. and North Korean have communicated with each other since the February collapse of talks between Trump and Kim in Hanoi, when the U.S. balked at Kim's demand to ease sanctions in advance of a full agreement to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Pompeo said that if "these nuclear weapons go away it will make a huge difference" in North Korea's chances to advance its economy.

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Cynthia Warmbier, the mother of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died in 2017 after being imprisoned for months in North Korea, on Friday disparaged U.S. efforts to deal with North Korea.

"There’s a charade going on right now," she said. "It’s called diplomacy. How can you have diplomacy with someone that never tells the truth? That’s what I want to know. I’m all for it, but I’m very skeptical.”

She described Kim's regime as “absolute evil.”

“It’s obvious to the world that we’re on to him,” she said of Kim. “But unless we keep the pressure on North Korea, they are not going to change, and I’m very afraid that we are going to let up on this pressure.”

Pompeo voiced sympathy for the Warmbier family, adding that Trump "understands the challenges" of dealing with Pyongyang.

North Korea on Saturday said it tested “multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons."

Kim Jong Un personally “gave an order of firing” of the projectiles into the sea off North Korea’s east coast, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.