Economic sanctions on North Korea will remain in place until the country achieves “final, verified” denuclearization, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday, stressing that Pyongyang’s rebuke of the demand as “gangster-like” was unfounded.
Following his meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterpart Kang Kyung-wha and Taro Kono, Pompeo said while there was progress made on denuclearization, the US and its allies will continue to apply international sanctions until North Korea completely abandons its nuclear arsenal.
Pompeo, who was in Tokyo to brief about the outcome of his latest trip to North Korea, pushed back against North Korea’s criticism that the US negotiators had acted in a gangster-like manner in making unilateral demand for denuclearization.
“If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster, because there was a unanimous decision at the UN Security Council about what needs to be achieved,” he said, referring to a series of UN sanctions adopted last year after North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.
“Our three countries will continue to be vocal in reminding each country of its obligations to (enforce sanctions). While we are encouraged by the progress of these talks, progress alone does not justify the relaxation of the existing sanctions regime.”
His remark came after North Korea expressed harsh criticism after Pompeo and US diplomats wrapped up their meeting with the North Korean counterpart, including Kim Yong-chol, the country’s former spy chief and top party official.
In a statement delivered by the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said while they wanted to forge trust with the US, the attitude displayed by the US negotiators was “utterly regretful.”
The Foreign Ministry said while they had wanted to discuss establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and declaring an official end to the Korean War, the US side will stick to unilateral demand for complete declaration and verification of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
“The issues the US side insisted on during the talks were the same cancerous ones that the past US administrations had insisted on,” the ministry said, referring to the idea of compete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.
Pompeo downplayed North Korea’s criticism on Sunday. He suggested that North Korea’s negotiators showed “good faith” during the talks and they did not take an issue with the idea of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.
While stressing that North Korea understands the denuclearization needs to be “verifiable and complete,” Pompeo pledged that the efforts will cover a broad range of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Pompeo hinted that if North Korea made progress on denuclearization, it can be rewarded with a security guarantee on the Kim Jong-un regime. But he added the lifting of economic sanctions is not on the table right now.
“There will be things that take place along the way that help achieve the security assurances that the North Koreans need…But the economic sanctions are a different kettle of fish altogether,” Pompeo said.
Despite Pompeo’s reassurance, his trip to Pyongyang has fueled concern that the denuclearization pledge made by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un during his meeting with Trump failed to result in producing a tangible outcome, experts said.
Washington insists that it disclose its nuclear weapons program, dismantle its facilities and undergo a verification process by outside inspectors. Among the priorities were a declaration of weapons sites and a timeline of the denuclearization effort.
But the meeting ended without an announcement for such agreements. Describing the meeting as “regrettable,” North Korea has reiterated “phased, simultaneous actions” as the quickest way of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
“North Korea’s response falls short of expectation from the international community… if they continue to refuse to talk about a detailed roadmap for denuclearization, doubts will grow more on their denuclearization pledge,” said Chung Seong-jang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute.
By Yeo Jun-suk (email@example.com