Sanc­tions stay un­til nukes gone: Pom­peo

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - WORLD - Josh Le­d­er­man and Christo­pher Bodeen

BEI­JING• The United States will not ease sanc­tions against North Korea un­til it de­nu­cle­arizes, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said Thurs­day, as he re­as­sured key Asian al­lies that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had not backed down on Py­ongyang’s weapons pro­gram.

Pom­peo, meet­ing in Seoul with top South Korean and Ja­panese diplo­mats, put a more sober spin on Trump’s sum­mit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un af­ter the pres­i­dent’s com­ments fu­elled un­ease in Wash­ing­ton, Tokyo and Seoul.

He said Trump’s cu­ri­ous claim that the North’s nu­clear threat was over was is­sued with “eyes wide open,” and brushed off a North Korean state me­dia re­port sug­gest­ing Trump would grant con­ces­sions even be­fore the North fully rids it­self of nu­clear weapons.

“We’re go­ing to get de­nu­cle­ariza­tion,” Pom­peo said in the South Korean cap­i­tal. “Only then will there be re­lief from the sanc­tions.”

Diverg­ing from the pres­i­dent, Harry Har­ris, Trump’s choice to be­come am­bas­sador to South Korea, said the U.S. must con­tinue to worry about the nu­clear threat from North Korea.

How­ever, Har­ris, the for­mer com­man­der of U.S. forces in the Pa­cific, en­dorsed Trump’s plan to pause ma­jor mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with the South, say­ing the U.S. is in a “dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent place” from where it was a year ago.

Pom­peo em­pha­sized that the drills, which North Korea claims to be prepa­ra­tion for a north­ward in­va­sion, could still be re­sumed if the mer­cu­rial Kim stops ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith.

The words of re­as­sur­ance from Pom­peo came as di­plo­macy con­tin­ued at an in­tense pace af­ter Tues­day’s sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore, the first be­tween a sit­ting Amer­i­can pres­i­dent and North Korea’s leader in six decades of hos­til­ity. In the vil­lage of Pan­munjom along the North-South bor­der, the ri­val Koreas on Thurs­day held their first high-level mil­i­tary talks since 2007, fo­cused on re­duc­ing ten­sions across their heav­ily for­ti­fied bor­der.

Pom­peo flew from Seoul to China’s cap­i­tal, Bei­jing, later Thurs­day for a meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, whose coun­try is be­lieved to wield con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence with North Korea as its chief ally and eco­nomic life­line.

Pom­peo thanked Bei­jing for its con­tin­u­ing ef­forts to help achieve the “com­plete, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of North Korea.” He said both sides had agreed that sanc­tions would not be eased un­til that’s achieved.

Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi de­scribed the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit as hav­ing “great his­toric sig­nif­i­cance” with the po­ten­tial to lead to “en­dur­ing peace.” Wang said the U.S. should con­tinue to “work through China.”

Pom­peo said there was still a risk that de­nu­cle­ariza­tion might not be achieved.

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