U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers Sunday in Tokyo and downplayed statements from North Korea expressing regret at “gangster-like” demands during his talks in Pyongyang the previous day.
Secretary Pompeo appeared to dismiss the statements released by North Korean state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Saturday as unrelated to his personal experience in talks with Vice Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee Kim Yong Chol over the weekend.
Referring to the commentary in KCNA attributed to a spokesperson of the DPRK foreign ministry as “stray comments,” Pompeo said he was “determined to achieve the commitment that President Trump made, and I am counting on Chairman Kim to be determined to follow through on the commitment he made.”
“If those requests were gangster-like, then the world is a gangster, because there was a unanimous decision at the UN Security Council about what needs to be achieved,” he added.
Saturday’s DPRK foreign ministry statement described U.S. demands as “unilateral and gangster-like,” adding that demands for CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization) “run counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit meeting and talks.”
The three counterparts – Secretary Pompeo, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono – used different terminology to refer to the goal of North Korea’s denuclearization during their opening statements, but all pushed back against a reporter’s question about the differences in definitions.
While Pompeo again used the term “final, fully-verified denuclearization” (FFVD), he insisted that the North Koreans understand the definition to include a wide range of actions.
“We had lengthy discussions about the scope of what complete denuclearization means over the past two days. They acknowledge that this is broad,” Pompeo said during Sunday’s press conference.
He added that the North Koreans “have not challenged” the broad definition he provided them, which includes actions on “weapons systems to fissile materials to the production facilities, enrichment facilities, across the range of weapons and missiles.”
The KCNA article from Saturday appeared to call for President Trump to step in and ease the demands given during the talks in Pyongyang by Pompeo and his team of negotiators, saying they “still cherish our good faith in President Trump.”
Pompeo similarly called on Kim Jong Un to take the lead, referring strictly to the language of the June 12 agreement signed in Singapore.
“[Kim Jong Un] committed to complete denuclearization. The commitment that Chairman Kim made is important and powerful and I am convinced that he understands the commitment he made,” Pompeo said.
“I am hopeful that we will find a path forward to achieve that commitment that Chairman Kim himself made personally to President Trump and then to the world in the signed agreement between our two leaders.”
But the two countries appear to be in disagreement over the timeline and order of actions each expects the other to take.
The KCNA commentary said North Korea prefers a “step-by-step approach” to “follow the principle of simultaneous actions in resolving what is feasible one by one while giving priority to creating trust.”
Pompeo responded to a question over the timeline on Sunday that the two sides discussed the issue at length in Pyongyang, saying that “there’s still much work to do to establish what the precise timeline for the various events will be.”
He emphasized that the next action the U.S. expects North Korea to take will be destroying a missile engine test site, which he said was “a commitment that they reaffirmed yesterday and told us that it would happen at a time that was important.”
He clarified that he would consider this action “important” and that he told the North Koreans it should take place soon.
Regarding the points of the Singapore agreement – which he said were the North’s complete denuclearization, the establishment peaceful bilateral relations with North Korea, and the provision of security guarantees during the process – Pompeo said that “each of these needs to be conducted in parallel; we need to work on those efforts simultaneously.”
“There will be things that take place along the way that help achieve the security assurances that the North Koreans need and improvement in the peaceful relations between our two countries during the time that denuclearization is taking place.”
“But the economic sanctions are a different kettle of fish altogether,” he added. “The economic sanctions and the continued enforcement – so the world will see – continued enforcement actions by the United States in the days and weeks ahead… will continue until denuclearization is complete.”
As for the concession made by the U.S. to suspend certain joint military drills with South Korea – announced by President Trump following the summit in Singapore – Foreign Minister Kang said on Sunday the decision “has been taken jointly with the aim of encouraging North Korea to actively and expeditiously engage in the denuclearization process.”
But the KCNA commentary the previous day criticized this as “incomparable with the irreversible step” the North took to explode the entrances of underground nuclear test sites.
It said the U.S. “made a great publicity about suspension of one or two joint military exercises,” but said this is “a highly reversible step which can be resumed anytime at any moment as all of its military force remains intact in its previously-held positions.”
The Secretary of State arrived in North Korea on Friday, holding two days of talks with DPRK officials in Pyongyang.
Contrary to expectations, however, he did not meet with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un during his visit – in marked contrast to visits to the North in April and May.
Ahead of the visit, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that Pompeo would “meet with the North Korean leader and his team” during the trip.
When asked why he had not met with Kim, Pompeo on Sunday insisted “it was never anticipated that I would meet with him.”
“We went there to work with Kim Yong Chol and our two teams to work together over the course of two days, we did just that,” Pompeo said.
North Korea media coverage of his visit has been sparse: Sunday’s edition of ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmun made only passing mention of the talks.
During the press conference Sunday, the three foreign ministers reaffirmed their “unwavering” alliance and sought to project lockstep coordination over ongoing talks with North Korea.
Pompeo confirmed that he raised the issue of abducted Japanese citizens with North Korea in all of his talks with his counterparts over the previous months, including over the weekend in Pyongyang, but did not provide details of their response.
U.S. and North Korean negotiators will meet again on July 12 at Panmunjom to continue their talks, specifically on the return of the remains of soldiers killed during the Korean War, the Secretary of State said.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Mike Pompeo’s Twitter
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