Pompeo: No Economic Relief Until ‘Complete Denuclearization’ of North Korea Has Been Achieved

By Patrick Goodenough | June 14, 2018 | 4:17 AM EDT

A photo released by North Korean regime media shows Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands with Kim Jong Un as President Trump looks on, at the Capella hotel in Singapore on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (Photo: Uriminzokkiri)

(CNSNews.com) – As President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un continues to draw flak, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday declared unequivocally that, unlike past agreements with Pyongyang, the one being pursued by the Trump administration will not provide economic benefits until the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea has been achieved.

Speaking in Seoul alongside his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Pompeo said Trump had made that clear directly to Kim Jong Un during their talks in Singapore on Tuesday.

“When we refer to ‘the mistakes of the past,’ they were providing economic and financial relief before the complete denuclearization had taken place,” he said. “That is not going to happen.”

“President Trump made that clear not only in his press conference, but made it clear when he was with Chairman Kim Jong Un himself – that the sequence will be different this time,” Pompeo continued. “That’s important; it is central to the understanding.”

On Wednesday the North Korean regime’s KCNA news agency, in the first official report on the summit, suggested that Trump had undertaken to lift sanctions as negotiations aimed at improving the relationship advance.

(Specifically, it said that Trump had “expressed his intention to … offer security guarantees to the DPRK and lift sanctions against it along with advance in improving the mutual relationship through dialogue and negotiation.”)

In Seoul, however, Pompeo said the U.S. believes that Kim understands that “sanctions relief cannot take place until such time as we have demonstrated that North Korea has been completely denuclearized.”

Pressed again later on the question of sequencing, he repeated: “We’re going to get complete denuclearization. Only then will there be relief from the sanctions.”

The secretary of state was also asked about Trump’s claims, in a tweet posted on his return from Asia, that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

“Isn’t that premature, when North Korea has just as many nuclear weapons today as it did a week ago?” a reporter asked.

Pompeo noted that the summit was the first time that “a sitting American president sat down with a leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and had a blunt conversation about the changes that would need to be undertaken in order for North Korea to rejoin the community of nations.”

“When he [Trump] talked about the reduction in threat that followed from that, it was with eyes wide open,” he continued.

It could be that the effort doesn’t work, Pompeo said, “but we’re determined to set the conditions, so that we can right this failure of decades and reset the conditions for North Korean – for North Korea’s participation in the community of nations.”

Elsewhere in his comments, Pompeo declared that the U.S. treaty alliances with South Korea and Japan remain “absolutely ironclad,” with all three countries “committed to achieving the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.”

That wording is significant for two reasons:

Firstly, it underlines the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” requirements for denuclearization that have long been the stated U.S. and U.N. expectations of North Korea.

Secondly, Pompeo referred to the “denuclearization of North Korea” rather that the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

In past negotiations Pyongyang has interpreted “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” in a way that encompasses the removal of the U.S. military presence from South Korea and even the broader North-East Asia region.

(The last U.S. nuclear weapons were removed from South Korea in 1991, although a protective “nuclear umbrella” is provided by U.S. bombers and submarines based elsewhere in the region, regarded as a key element of the U.S. alliances with both South Korea and Japan.)

The document signed by Trump and Kim in Singapore included the word “denuclearization” three times, and each time it added “… of the Korean peninsula.”

KCNA in a bulletin Thursday said Kim had returned home from Singapore “amid the great attention and excitement of mankind toward the epochal talks unprecedented in history which shocked the whole world.”


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow