US reassures its allies in Asia after Trump summit with Kim
WASHINGTON: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said his country will resume “war games” with South Korea if North Korea was found to have stopped negotiating in “good faith”, adding that the lifting of UN sanctions on Pyongyang was contingent upon its “complete denuclearisation”.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump had stunned allies in Asia by announcing an end to military drills with South Korea after talks with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, calling the exercises “provocative”. Pompeo walked that back somewhat, telling reporters that Trump “made it very clear that the condition precedent for the exercises not to proceed was a productive, good-faith negotiations being ongoing”.
Pompeo added: “And at the point it’s concluded that they are not, the president’s commitment to not have those joint exercises take place will no longer be in effect.”
As Trump and his team left for Washington, the Pompeo stayed back in the region in a pre-arranged tour to brief allies such as South Korea and Japan on the US president’s meet Kim.
At a news conference with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Seoul, Pomepo also made clear the sanctions will remain in place till North Korea denuclearises completely.
He said the Trump administration will not repeat the mistakes made in the past — of “providing economic and financial relief before the complete denuclearization had taken place”.
But the US will find it difficult to force all players with stakes in the region to adhere to this sequence.
China and Russia have already announced plans to roll back their sanctions, and when asked specifically about it at a news briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi declined to answer.
There has been considerable confusion about details of agreements reached between Trump and Kim, as the joint statement they signed was sparse and lacking in details. No timelines were specified, for instance, for North Korea to denuclearise. Trump’s freeze on military exercises with South Korea found no mention in the joint statement.
It’s Pompeo’s brief now to work out the details, walk back some of his boss’s triumphant rhetoric and reassure allies.
▪ North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (right) walks with US President Donald Trump during a break in talks at their summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore.