A day after President Trump’s vaunted summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, North Korean state media was reporting that the United States had committed to security agreements and an end to sanctions as well ending joint military exercises with South Korea. The North Korean claims prompted a response Thursday morning from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
At a press conference in Singapore with his opposite numbers from Japan and South Korea, Secretary Pompeo said that sanctions would not be lifted until there was complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the North Korean regime. Pompeo acknowledged that there was no agreement on denuclearization yet and that talks could still break down.
Mr. Pompeo’s statements seem to contradict President Trump’s tweet from Wednesday which said, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” The secretary of state said that the president’s tweet was made with “all eyes open” to the fact that North Korea is still a nuclear power and that a full agreement for denuclearization has not been reached.
In the agreement signed by President Trump and Chairman Kim, North Korea “commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The wording is not defined, but echoes the longtime North Korean condition that American nuclear weapons must also be withdrawn from the Korean theater. The North Koreans may also insist on the withdrawal of US ground forces, something that President Trump has already said may be a long-term goal of his administration.
When asked by a reporter what made the current talks different from previous North Korean promises of denuclearization, Pompeo said, “The sequence [of providing aid and sanctions relief too early] will be different this time.”
“Chairman Kim understands the urgency of the timing of completing this denuclearization,” Pompeo stated. “Sanctions relief cannot take place at such time until we can determine denuclearization is complete.”
At this point, denuclearization has not even started.