SEOUL/BEIJING, (Reuters) – Tough sanctions will remain on North Korea until its complete denuclearisation, the U.S. secretary of state said on Thursday, apparently contradicting the North’s view that the process agreed at this week’s summit would be phased and reciprocal.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a joint statement after their meeting in Singapore this week that reaffirmed the North’s commitment to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, while Trump “committed to provide security guarantees”.
Trump later told a news conference he would end joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
“President Trump has been incredibly clear about the sequencing of denuclearisation and relief from the sanctions,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters after meeting South Korea’s president and Japan’s foreign minister in Seoul.
“We are going to get complete denuclearisation; only then will there be relief from the sanctions,” he said.
North Korean state media reported on Wednesday that Kim and Trump had recognised the principle of “step-by-step and simultaneous action” to achieve peace and denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.
The summit statement provided no details on when North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons programme or how the dismantling might be verified.
Sceptics of how much the meeting achieved pointed to the North Korean leadership’s long-held view that nuclear weapons are a bulwark against what it fears are U.S. plans to overthrow it and unite the Korean peninsula.
However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the world, through the summit, had escaped the threat of war, echoing Trump’s upbeat assessment of his meeting with Kim.
“What’s most important was that the people of the world, including those in the United States, Japan and Koreans, have all been able to escape the threat of war, nuclear weapons and missiles,” Moon told Pompeo.
Pompeo insisted North Korea was committed to giving up its nuclear arsenal but said it would “be a process, not an easy one”.
Kim understood getting rid of his nuclear arsenal needed to be done quickly and there would only be relief from stringent U.N. sanctions on North Korea after its “complete denuclearisation”, Pompeo said.
Moon later said South Korea would be flexible when it comes to military pressure on North Korea if it is sincere about denuclearisation.
Also on Thursday, North and South Korea held their first military talks in more than a decade. The talks followed on from an inter-Korean summit in April at which Moon and Kim agreed to defuse tension and cease “hostile acts”.
Speaking later in the day in Beijing, Pompeo said China, Japan and South Korea all acknowledged a corner had been turned on the Korean peninsula issue, but that all three had also acknowledged sanctions remain in place until denuclearisation is complete.
“China has reaffirmed its commitment to honouring the U.N. Security Council resolutions. Those have mechanisms for relief contained in them, and we agreed that at the appropriate time that those would be considered,” Pompeo said, standing next to the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi.
“But we have made very clear that the sanctions and the economic relief that North Korea will receive will only happen after the full denuclearisation, the complete denuclearisation of North Korea.”
Wang said China had consistently supported the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula but that it was impossible to solve the issue overnight.
“At the same time, we believe North Korea’s reasonable security concerns should be resolved.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping told Pompeo that he hoped the United States and North Korea could keep making unremitting efforts for a political resolution, and that China was willing to keep playing a constructive role in this process, a foreign ministry statement said.