Fri, Jun 15, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Disarmament before sanctions relief: US and allies


South Korean Minister of Foreign Affiars Kang Kyung-hwa, center right, shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: EPA

The US, China, South Korea and Japan agree that sanctions imposed on North Korea will not be lifted until it can show complete disarmament, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday, pushing back against North Korean suggestions that penalties would soon start being relaxed.

“Each of those three countries has also acknowledged that it’s important that the sanctions regime that is in place today remain in place until such time as that denuclearization is, in fact, complete,” Pompeo told reporters in Beijing following talks with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅).

Pompeo, who earlier yesterday met with officials from Japan and South Korea in Seoul, said that all four nations “have made very clear that the sanctions, and the economic relief that North Korea will receive, will only happen after full denuclearization.”

“[North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un understands the urgency of the timing of completing this denuclearization and understands we must do this quickly,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo was briefing North Asian leaders on the summit, meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in before heading to Beijing to talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Moon and Xi have advocated a phased approach to negotiations and moved to quickly repair ties with North Korea, while Japan wants a US-led “maximum pressure” campaign to continue.

Pompeo said during a news conference with Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono and South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha that the agreement included denuclearization demands, even if they were not spelled out.

“The summit created this enormous historic opportunity for us to move forward and will fundamentally really shape the relationship between the United States and North Korea,” Pompeo said. “Verification is essential to that. ‘Complete denuclearization’ certainly encompasses that idea very clearly.”

“We’re hopeful that we can achieve that in, what was it, the next two-and-a-half years,” Pompeo said.

Bridling at a reporter who on Wednesday asked how the deal would be verified, Pompeo said: “I find that question insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous. I just have to be honest with you: It’s a game, it’s a game and one ought not play games with serious matters like this.”

The US and South Korea were also discussing a suspension of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises scheduled for August, South Korea’s MoneyToday reported yesterday, citing an unidentified defense official.

While Moon did not address the drills in his public remarks, he said the meeting had reduced the threat of war.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was mulling his own summit with Kim in August or September, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, citing several unidentified government officials.

However, Kono said the government was not considering such a meeting at the moment and that high-level exchanges must resolve the issue of Japanese abductees held by North Korea.

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