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View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called into several radio programs Thursday, providing a brief update to negotiations with North Korea just hours after DPRK state media released a strongly-worded rebuke of U.S. denuclearization goals.
Mentioning the DPRK in two of his four appearances, Pompeo reiterated expectations of “Chairman Kim’s commitment to denuclearize,” but also characterized talks as part of a “pathway forward toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
In the early morning hours in Washington, an article was published by North Korean state outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) saying Pompeo’s assertion that “‘north Korea committed itself to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of north Korea’ … is something aghast.”
“The U.S. tries to cause the optical illusion of the people” by conflating “‘denuclearization of the Korean peninsula’ with ‘the denuclearization of north Korea,’” the statement continued.
Pompeo was not asked directly about the KCNA commentary in his Thursday morning interviews, but he did offer somewhat softer language over his outlook on the goal of ongoing talks, which he said will be achieved through a second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
Through the summit, Pompeo expects Trump will make “another substantial step along the way towards creating a reduced threat to the United States from North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal,” he said in one interview Thursday with Brian Grimmett of KMUW Wichita Public Radio.
In a similar statement, Pompeo said on KNSS Radio’s Steve and Ted in the Morning that Trump and Kim will “make even further progress on taking this threat to the United States away from us.”
The latter is similar but contrasting language to the recent KCNA commentary, which said that “completely removing the nuclear threats of the U.S. to the DPRK” is a more accurate reflection of their understanding of the goal of “denuclearization.”
Pompeo offered stronger words just days ago, however, when he was reported to have thanked New Zealand’s foreign minister Winston Peters for the country’s “continued support in working towards the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un.”
During his Thursday interviews, the Secretary of State reiterated common talking points, boasting of “no more missiles being tested” and “no more nuclear testing” by North Korea, but he did not mention sanctions.
State Department Spokesperson Robert Palladino, however, said in a regular briefing Tuesday that “President Trump has made it clear that sanctions relief will follow denuclearization. And the sooner North Korea denuclearizes, the sooner sanctions can be lifted.”
Pompeo indicated Thursday he hoped the next Trump-Kim summit would occur “not too long after the first of the year,” providing no further details.
Meanwhile, the State Department’s Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun continued a series of meetings with his counterparts in Seoul Friday.
Biegun, along with ROK foreign ministry’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon, kicked off their second “working group” meeting Friday morning, according to a report from South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
Denuclearization, inter-Korean relations, and sanctions were all on the agenda, the report said.
Earlier Friday, Biegun met with Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon, and is expected to meet National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong in the afternoon.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Mike Pompeo’s Twitter