U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says sanctions will remain in place on North Korea “until final, fully verified denuclearization as agreed to by Chairman Kim (Jong Un) occurs.”
Speaking Sunday at a news conference in Tokyo with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Pompeo said, “While we are encouraged by the progress of these talks, progress alone does not justify the relaxation of the existing sanctions regime.”
The secretary said there will be a verification process “connected to the complete denuclearization,” adding, “It’s what President Trump and Chairman Kim both agreed to.”
The top U.S. diplomat continued Sunday to describe his conversations with senior North Korean officials as “productive,” even though North Korea has issued a statement saying that Washington was “gangsterlike” in its insistence for rapid denuclearization.
“If those requests were gangsterlike, the world is a gangster, because there was a unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved,” Pompeo said.
The secretary said the North Korea diplomats “did not push back” in his discussions with them in Pyongyang. He said he is “hopeful” there will be a “path forward” in negotiations with North Korea.
North Korea statement
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that discussions with Pompeo were “regrettable” and it accused Washington of attempting to unilaterally force Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear weapons program.
A statement by an unnamed ministry spokesman was issued a few hours after Pompeo concluded two days of talks with Pyongyang’s senior ruling party official, Kim Yong Chol, and other North Korean officials.
The statement said the outcome of the talks were “very concerning” because it initiated a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm.”
North Korea’s official KCNA news agency described the talks as “extremely troubling” and cited an unnamed foreign ministry spokesperson as saying the “fastest way” to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula was through a phased, bilateral approach.
The top U.S. diplomat said a large portion of the discussion was about a timeline for North Korea’s denuclearization and a baseline declaration for its weapons of mass destruction. Pompeo did not divulge any details, but said, “We spent a good deal of time talking about each of those two things and I think we made progress in every element of our discussions.”
Next meeting July 12
The secretary said a meeting has been scheduled for July 12 that “could move by one day or two” for conversations “between the folks responsible for the repatriation of remains” of Americans who died in the Korean War.
Pompeo did not meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said there was never any expectation of a meeting with Kim.
This was Pompeo’s third visit this year to North Korea and the first where he stayed overnight. It was also his first visit since President Trump met with Kim at last month’s Singapore summit.
Pompeo has been charged by Trump with overseeing Kim’s promise at the summit to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
Nauert said Saturday that U.S. and North Korean officials have set up working groups to deal with “nitty gritty stuff,” including validation of efforts to achieve denuclearization.
She said Pompeo had been “very firm” in the discussions in seeking three basic goals: complete denuclearization of North Korea, security assurances, and the repatriation of remains of Americans who died in the Korean War. Nauert also said progress had been made in the secretary’s meetings on Friday.
Pompeo’s latest trip to North Korea comes amid reports of American intelligence assessments that Kim is continuing to develop the infrastructure for his nuclear program. U.S. news accounts in recent days have shown pictures of what is said to be the expansion of nuclear-related buildings in North Korea.