Kim knows de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion must be ‘quick’, says Pom­peo

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD - Francesco Fon­temaggi

KIM Jong-un un­der­stands that de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion must hap­pen “quickly”, US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said on Thursday, warn­ing there will be no sanc­tions re­lief for Py­ongyang un­til the process is com­plete.

Wash­ing­ton re­mained com­mit­ted to the “com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible” de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of North Korea, Pom­peo added, af­ter the his­toric US-North Korea sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore drew crit­i­cism for its vague word­ing on plans for Py­ongyang to give up its nu­clear weapons.

“We be­lieve that Kim Jongun un­der­stands the ur­gency . . . that we must do this quickly,” he said of the ef­fort to have North Korea aban­don its nu­clear weapons.

Wash­ing­ton’s top diplo­mat was in Seoul to brief his South Korean and Ja­panese coun­ter­parts af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s post-sum­mit com­ments sparked con­fu­sion and con­cern in Tokyo and Seoul.

But Pom­peo in­sisted at a press con­fer­ence with the two coun­tries’ for­eign min­is­ters there was no day­light among the al­lies on how to achieve the de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion of North Korea.

Con­trast­ing the Trump pol­icy with pre­vi­ous US ad­min­is­tra­tions, Pom­peo said: “In the past, they were pro­vid­ing eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial re­lief be­fore . . . com­plete de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion had taken place. That is not go­ing to hap­pen, Pres­i­dent Trump made that clear.”

Pom­peo’s com­ments came af­ter North Korean state me­dia re­ported on Wednesday that Trump had not only of­fered to stop mil­i­tary ex­er­cises dur­ing di­a­logue, but also lift sanc­tions im­posed on Py­ongyang.

Trump said af­ter his meet­ing with Kim – the first be­tween sit­ting US and North Korean lead­ers – that Wash­ing­ton would halt its joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with South Korea, an an­nounce­ment that caught Seoul – and ap­par­ently the Pen­tagon – by sur­prise.

The US and South Korea con­duct sev­eral large drills ev­ery year to main­tain readi­ness for oper­a­tions on the penin­sula, a source of ir­ri­ta­tion for Py­ongyang, which con­sid­ers them prepa­ra­tions for an in­va­sion.

‘Frank’ dis­cus­sions

Kang Kyung-wha, the South Korean for­eign min­is­ter, ap­peared to side­step the is­sue at the joint press con­fer­ence, say­ing that the mat­ter would be left to mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties to dis­cuss, and that the US-South Korea al­liance re­mained “as ro­bust as ever”.

Ear­lier, South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in ac­knowl­edged that “there may be very con­flict­ing views” about the sum­mit, but it had still helped mit­i­gate fears of a nu­clear war.

“So in this way I be­lieve it was very suc­cess­ful.”

While it is not di­rectly in­volved, Ja­pan also con­sid­ers the drills vi­tal.

The “de­ter­rence based on them [plays] an essential role for se­cu­rity in north­east Asia”, Ja­panese For­eign Min­is­ter Taro Kono said af­ter the “frank” tri­lat­eral talks on Thursday.

“The US will ad­vance the dis­cus­sion on pro­vi­sion of se­cu­rity guar­an­tees while care­fully mon­i­tor­ing whether North Korea takes con­crete steps to ful­fil its com­mit­ment to de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion,” Kono added.

“No se­cu­rity guar­an­tees have been given yet.”

Pom­peo said the sus­pen­sion of drills de­pended on pro­duc­tive ne­go­ti­a­tions in “good faith”.

Trump had raised eye­brows on Tuesday by de­scrib­ing his own coun­try’s drills on the Korean penin­sula as “provoca­tive”, a term used by the North for the ex­er­cises.

Py­ongyang de­scribes its nu­clear weapons and long-range mis­siles as a shield against US ag­gres­sion, and has in the past linked de­nu­cle­ari­sa­tion to the re­moval of US forces from the penin­sula.

Af­ter his meet­ings in Seoul, Pom­peo left for Beijing, where he was ex­pected to meet Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi.

‘Sleep well tonight!

De­spite some con­cerns among al­lies and an­a­lysts, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to tout the sum­mit as a suc­cess, and Pom­peo said ear­lier he hopes to see “ma­jor dis­ar­ma­ment” of North Korea by 2020.

A bullish Trump de­clared the nu­clear threat from North Korea no longer ex­ists, and tweeted on Wednesday that peo­ple “can now feel much safer than the day I took of­fice” and can “sleep well tonight!”

The US leader also de­fended his de­ci­sion on the mil­i­tary drills with South Korea: “We save a for­tune by not do­ing war games, as long as we are ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith – which both sides are!”

The pres­i­dent’s lat­est com­ments are in stark con­trast to his threats to un­leash “fire and fury” last year in re­sponse to Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and lon­grange mis­sile tests. The North re­tal­i­ated by boast­ing it could an­ni­hi­late the United States.

Af­ter months of ten­sions which saw Trump and Kim trade per­sonal in­sults, whirl­wind diplo­matic ef­forts were launched ear­lier this year, catal­ysed by the Win­ter Olympics in South Korea.

The re­mark­able de-es­ca­la­tion saw Kim reach out to Trump, con­duct a his­toric sum­mit with South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, and visit Xi in Beijing – his first trip abroad as leader of the North.

The reclu­sive regime in Py­ongyang has long craved in­ter­na­tional le­git­i­macy, and has played up the sum­mit as a ma­jor vic­tory for Kim, with state me­dia call­ing it the “meet­ing of the cen­tury”.

SAUL LOEB/AFP

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (left) signs a doc­u­ment while US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo looks on dur­ing a sign­ing cer­e­mony with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un dur­ing their sum­mit, at the Capella Ho­tel on Sen­tosa is­land, in Sin­ga­pore, on Tuesday.

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