About the Author
View more articles by Jacob Fromer
Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
Update at 18:30 EST: This article has been updated to include comments from a former U.S. official.
The United States is working to convince North Korea to denuclearize, but progress has been “far too slow,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.
Pompeo’s comments, made during a radio interview with a station in his home state of Kansas, came one day after the DPRK tested — and perfected, according to the North’s state-run media — its new multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS).
“What’s the latest on that situation?” the radio host, Rick Everett, asked Pompeo.
“So it would’ve been now the last 24 hours North Korea fired two — what we think were rockets that were consistent with what they’ve done before,” Pompeo said.
“We are still working diligently to execute what President Trump and Chairman Kim agreed to now in June of a year ago to try and get North Korea to denuclearize,” he said, calling it “an important mission for the world.”
“The super-large multiple rocket launchers will become the core weapon of the Korean People’s Army, along with tactical guided weapons which are newly-developed recently, to contain and eliminate all threatening movements of an enemy,” the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Friday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not appear to have attended the launch, according to KCNA.
However, he “expressed satisfaction” over reports of the test, which was conducted by the DPRK’s Academy of Defence Science, KCNA said.
Kim, KCNA said, “sent congratulations to the national defence scientists who are devotedly struggling for developing the self-defensive military muscle of the country and bolstering up its armed forces.”
Pompeo’s comments appeared to signal that the U.S., despite the latest missile test, remained committed to the current path of diplomacy.
“The entire world came together around a series of UN Security Council resolutions,” Pompeo said. “Chairman Kim then made this commitment that said he would denuclearize, and we are working to negotiate that outcome.”
But, Pompeo added, “The progress has been far too slow.”
“I’m hopeful that we can continue to work on this project and get a good outcome in the months ahead.”
One expert told NK News that Pompeo’s comment that Kim has committed to denuclearization does not reflect the North Korean’s leaders actual intentions.
“Kim Jong UN has not made a commitment to denuclearize North Korea,” said Evans Revere, a former Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department.
“As we saw in the Singapore joint declaration and as we have heard consistently from the North Koreans, he has committed to the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” which in North Korean parlance means the neutralization or elimination of the U.S. ability to threaten North Korea militarily,” he said.
Revere added that Pompeo is “vastly understating the problem with Pyongyang.”
”Progress towards denuclearization with North Korea is not “slow” — it is nonexistent,” he said.
“The DPRK is in fact enhancing its nuclear weapons arsenal. North Korea is doing the opposite of denuclearization.”
Thursday’s missile test was the first conducted since American and North Korean diplomats met in Stockholm and tried to reach a deal over sanctions relief and the fate of the North’s nuclear program.
Those negotiations ended without a deal, and the two countries have not yet agreed — at least publicly — to resume talks.
The U.S. envoy in the negotiations, Stephen Biegun, was on Thursday nominated by President Trump to become the next Deputy Secretary of State, the number-two person in the department behind Pompeo.
It is widely believed that Biegun will continue working on the North Korea negotiations if he is confirmed to his new position by the U.S. Senate.
“Steve has been and will continue to be an effective leader on #DPRK efforts,” Pompeo said on Twitter after the announcement. “His expertise in this new role will be good for @StateDept and America.”
Featured image: U.S. Department of State