Trump sets goal for ‘ma­jor dis­ar­ma­ment’

Pom­peo de­fends word­ing of ac­cord with North Korea, sees ac­tion by 2021

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo of­fered the first snapshot of a time­line for North Korean de­nu­cle­ariza­tion Wed­nes­day, telling re­porters on a trip to Seoul that he is “hope­ful” Py­ongyang will show clear ev­i­dence of a “ma­jor dis­ar­ma­ment” be­fore Pres­i­dent Trump’s term in office ends in Jan­uary 2021.

While the joint state­ment signed a day ear­lier in Sin­ga­pore by Pres­i­dent Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said only broadly that the North Korean leader ex­pressed an “un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to com­plete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula,” it did not go into de­tail on when that may oc­cur or how it may be ver­i­fied by Wash­ing­ton.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has sought to dampen what has been a wave of Wash­ing­ton group­think crit­i­cism of the sum­mit, stress­ing that the Sin­ga­pore meet­ing was a his­toric first step in what will now evolve, po­ten­tially quickly, into a concrete set of steps to end North Korea’s nu­clear pro­grams in ex­change for even­tual eco­nomic sanc­tions re­lief for Py­ongyang.

Mr. Pom­peo, who ar­rived in South Korea on Wed­nes­day be­fore head­ing to Ja­pan and China for brief­ings on the sum­mit, said he was con­fi­dent that the North Korean del­e­ga­tion fully un­der­stood in private con­ver­sa­tions lead­ing up to the joint state­ment that Py­ongyang has to ver­i­fi­ably and en­tirely de­stroy and aban­don its pro­gram and must quickly show progress on the com­mit­ment.

Crit­ics have seized on the ab­sence of the words “ver­i­fi­able” and “ir­rev­o­ca­ble” from the Trump-Kim state­ment to ar­gue that the North Kore­ans got the bet­ter deal out of the sum­mit.

Dur­ing an at-times testy ex­change with re­porters trav­el­ing with him, Mr. Pom­peo called it “in­sult­ing and ridicu­lous, and frankly lu­di­crous” that private an­a­lysts and the news me­dia homed in on the word­ing in the joint state­ment. He also down­played con­cerns about

the lack of a public time­line for spe­cific ac­tions by Py­ongyang.

“A lot has been made of the fact that the word ‘ver­i­fi­able’ didn’t ap­pear in the agree­ment,” Mr. Pom­peo said. “Let me as­sure you that the [word] ‘com­plete’ en­com­passes ‘ver­i­fi­able’ in the minds of every­one con­cerned. One can’t com­pletely de­nu­cle­arize with­out val­i­dat­ing, au­then­ti­cat­ing — you pick the word.”

Mr. Pom­peo also in­sisted that Mr. Trump was “un­am­bigu­ous” with Mr. Kim about his de­ci­sion to freeze that he called “provoca­tive” U.S.-South Korean mil­i­tary drills as the talks pro­ceed, which crit­ics also said rep­re­sented a con­ces­sion to the North. He said the pres­i­dent “made very clear” that the freeze de­pends on Py­ongyang’s com­mit­ment to pos­i­tive de­nu­cle­ariza­tion talks.

If the U.S. at any time de­cides “pro­duc­tive, good­faith ne­go­ti­a­tions” are not oc­cur­ring, then the freeze will no longer be in ef­fect, the sec­re­tary of state said.

Pars­ing the deal

Mr. Pom­peo made the com­ments against a back­drop of skep­ti­cism in na­tional se­cu­rity cir­cles over the ex­tent to which Wash­ing­ton scored any tan­gi­ble or per­ma­nent con­ces­sions dur­ing Tues­day’s sum­mit, which many U.S. an­a­lysts say le­git­imized the young dic­ta­tor of a na­tion on Amer­ica’s list of state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism and widely ac­cused of hu­man rights abuses.

While North Korea’s state-con­trolled me­dia have quickly spun the out­come of the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit as a vic­tory in which the U.S. gave ma­jor con­ces­sions to Mr. Kim, sources close to the White House say Mr. Trump re­ceived per­sonal prom­ises from the North Korean leader about ac­tions Py­ongyang would soon take to show it is serous about aban­don­ing its weapons.

Un­clear is whether North Korea will fol­low through on the ac­tions and whether Mr. Trump promised to com­pen­sate them on a step-by-step ba­sis with move­ment to­ward sanc­tions re­lief.

North Korea al­ready vowed to dis­man­tle the coun­try’s main test­ing ground for nu­clear bombs, the Pung­gye-ri site that fea­tures long tubes run­ning into and be­neath a moun­tain, where a pow­er­ful atomic det­o­na­tion oc­curred in Septem­ber.

Re­cent satel­lite im­agery shows that struc­tures around the fa­cil­ity have been razed, but U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials last month cast doubts on Py­ongyang’s claim to have de­stroyed the fa­cil­ity be­cause in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors were not on hand to wit­ness the ac­tion.

Dur­ing his press con­fer­ence im­me­di­ately after the Sin­ga­pore sum­mit, Mr. Trump said Mr. Kim told him that a sep­a­rate fa­cil­ity was also be­ing dis­man­tled. “Chair­man Kim has told me that North Korea is al­ready de­stroy­ing a ma­jor mis­sile engine test­ing site,” the pres­i­dent said.

While the joint state­ment did not re­fer to the ac­tion, Mr. Trump sug­gested it was a con­ces­sion that U.S. ne­go­tia­tors fought for in private and won. How­ever, a high-level U.S. in­tel­li­gence source said the is­sue was sen­si­tive, not only be­cause of un­cer­tainty over the North Korean prom­ise but also be­cause of the man­ner in which Mr. Trump spoke about it.

With cam­eras rolling from news or­ga­ni­za­tions around the world, the pres­i­dent said U.S. of­fi­cials de­tected the site’s lo­ca­tion “be­cause of the heat that it emits.” His com­ments of­fered in­sight into a U.S. in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing ca­pa­bil­ity not pre­vi­ously re­vealed, said the source, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

If the ne­go­ti­a­tion process breaks down sud­denly, the source added, Py­ongyang could use its new­found aware­ness of this U.S. in­tel­li­gence ca­pa­bil­ity to de­velop cool­ing mech­a­nisms to hide test­ing sites.

Sig­nif­i­cant dates

Mr. Pom­peo de­clined Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss whether a private time­line was set for North Korea to prove it has de­stroyed the site or taken other tech­ni­cal ac­tions. In­stead, the sec­re­tary of state spoke broadly of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion, sug­gest­ing that U.S. and other in­ter­na­tional spe­cial­ists ex­pect to be

in­vited into North Korea to in­spect.

“I’m hope­ful we can move that for­ward fairly quickly as well,” he said. “We have big teams ready to go. … We’ve been work­ing on it for months to have all of the rel­e­vant par­ties from our labs, the smartest folks — by the way, not just Amer­i­cans, but part­ners around the world — [and] we’re pre­pared to ex­e­cute.”

Even if there is no private time­line, the ne­go­ti­a­tions process will face its first ma­jor test by Au­gust when the next round of U.S.-South Korean joint mil­i­tary drills were sched­uled. The drills have been a sta­ple of the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence on the Korean Penin­sula and of­fer reg­u­lar re­as­sur­ances to South Korea, Ja­pan and other al­lies in the re­gion that the U.S. is pre­pared to de­ter any North Korean ag­gres­sion.

Py­ongyang has long con­demned the drills as prac­tice for an in­va­sion of North Korea, and high­lighted Mr. Trump’s freeze in the coverage shown on state-con­trolled me­dia.

Vic­tor Cha, the top North Korea an­a­lyst at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton, said the drills will be “the first real test of whether there is any meat on the bones of this joint state­ment.”

An­other ma­jor test looms when the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly meets in New York in Septem­ber. Mr. Cha pre­dicted that China and Russia, per­ma­nent mem­bers of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, will likely call for Mr. Kim to be in­vited.

While Mr. Kim has re­port­edly ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion from Mr. Trump to visit Wash­ing­ton, it is not clear whether that may oc­cur in Septem­ber.

Mr. Pom­peo said Wed­nes­day that Mr. Trump “is in the lead” on de­cid­ing such mat­ters.

“I don’t know ex­actly what the tim­ing will be for our next con­ver­sa­tion with North Korea,” the sec­re­tary of state said. “I would an­tic­i­pate it will be fairly quickly. … I don’t know ex­actly what form that will take, but I’m very con­fi­dent that by some time in the next week or so we will be­gin the en­gage­ment.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

MES­SEN­GER: Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo will be brief­ing Ja­pan and China on the sum­mit be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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