U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says Washington will not ease economic sanctions against North Korea, urging Southeast Asian nations to continue a maximum pressure campaign against Pyongyang until it reaches the goal of a complete denuclearization.
“We must continue to maintain the pressure campaign and enforce all U.N. sanctions until we achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” said Pence Friday after his bilateral meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Pence’s remarks came amid reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected the testing of a newly developed tactical weapon earlier Friday, the first mention of a new development in North Korea’s weapons program in months.
"This result today is a justification of the party's policy focused on defense science and technology, another display of our rapidly growing defense capabilities to the whole region, and a groundbreaking change in strengthening our military's combat capabilities," Kim said.
The U.S. has been pressing North Korea to provide a detailed list of its nuclear weapons since the initial denuclearization deal was reached in June when U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un met in Singapore for the first summit.
Last week, Kim’s regime postponed a senior level meeting between the U.S. and North Korea in New York where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was due to meet with Kim Yong Chol, a senior adviser to Kim Jong Un.
The meeting was to discuss moving forward on the denuclearization in the Korea Peninsula and paving the way for a second Trump-Kim summit.
“The postponement of the meeting between principles of the two countries should not be over-read and that we will all continue to work towards rescheduling that summit, and I know the President is determined to do it,” Pence told the U.S. traveling press.
"We don’t want to repeat the mistakes that prior administrations, frankly in both political parties, have made over the last several decades where promises are made, sanctions are lifted, economic support comes and then promises are broken,” he added.
At the State Department, a spokesperson said Washington remains confident that promises made by Kim at the June summit in Singapore will be fulfilled.
"We remain confident that the promises made by President Trump and Chairman Kim will be fulfilled," said the spokesman.
In an interview with NBC, Pence said it is imperative that in the next US-North Korea Summit for Washington to “come away with a plan for identifying all of the weapons in question, identifying all the development sites, allowing for inspections of the sites and the plan for dismantling nuclear weapons.”
A U.S. think tank said on Monday it had identified at least 13 of an estimated 20 active, undeclared missile bases inside North Korea.
Victor Cha, senior advisor and Korea chair of Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the U.S. and North Korea have been at odds over the pace of Pyongyang's efforts to end its nuclear weapons program.
Cha said Washington wants Pyongyang to “actually putting some facilities on the table for a declaration,” and allow independent inspection on the ground. But North Korea wants the U.S. to lift sanctions first before taking those actions.
Pence is continuing his Asia trip to Papua New Guinea where dozens of regional leaders will gather for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meetings.