U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday indicated that North Korea has the right to defend itself, though added that nuclear weapons make the DPRK less secure.
Speaking on U.S. radio show KCMO, the secretary of state continued Washington’s positive messaging on negotiations with North Korea and reiterated U.S. commitment to diplomatic engagement.
“Those nuclear weapon systems that North Korea has been driving towards for decades now. In fact, what will provide them security is coming to a set of understandings with the United States and with the world to denuclearize,” Pompeo said.
“And when they do so, we’ll provide the security assurances that are needed for them and for their people. Every nation has the sovereign right to defend itself.”
Pompeo added that Washington believed that Pyongyang still intended to “intend to head down the diplomatic path,” despite a recent spate of North Korea missile tests.
“’I’m very committed to working with the North Korean team to negotiate a set of outcomes that will be good for both the United States and the world in terms of reducing the nuclear threat that emanates from the Korean Peninsula, but also ensuring that security and peace and prosperity can come to North Korea as well,” Pompeo said.
But Pompeo’s comments contrast with statements from North Korean officials, who as recently as last week said that the hopes for negotiations were fading.
Choe Son Hui, first vice-minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK, issued a press statement in response to Pompeo referring to North Korean behavior as “rogue”.
The DPRK vice-mister on August 31 said that Pompeo had “provoked us once again by making an irrational remark,” according to the Korean-language statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“The act of Pompeo severely insulting us and even labeling us [as conducting] ‘rogue behavior’ is a slip of the tongue that they will definitely regret,” Choe said.
Pompeo’s statement “oversteps the bounds and makes it more difficult to open the scheduled DPRK-U.S. working-level negotiations.”
Choe added that Pyongyang’s “expectations for dialogue with the U.S. have been fading gradually, and it (the U.S.) has been pushing us to the situation where we are compelled to review all the measures that we have taken until now.”
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho also weighed on previous comments from Pompeo, issuing a rare statement criticizing remarks from Pompeo on the maintenance of U.S. sanctions.
In response on August 23, the North Korean foreign minister said Pyongyang has “given [the U.S.] time, with maximum patience.”
“But if the U.S. still has an absurd dream about achieving everything with sanctions, we have no choice but to let it dream as much as it wishes or break down the dream,” Ri said in a Korean-language statement. “We are prepared for both dialogue and confrontation.”
Yet during his interview on Friday, Pompeo admitted negotiations with North Korea are a slow and difficult process.
“We always knew it would take time. We always knew there would be bumps in the road. But it is truly the case that we hope Chairman Kim and his team will deliver on the promises they made back in Singapore in the summer of last year,” Pompeo told the U.S. radio show.