North Korea should disarm by 2021, Mike Pompeo says as critics slam Trump-Kim summit agreement
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US expects ‘major, major disarmament’ before Trump’s first term is up on January 20, 2012
The United States hopes to achieve “major disarmament” by North Korea within the next two-and-a-half years, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, as he defended President Donald Trump against charges that he made too many concessions in his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The agreement hammered out by Trump and Kim reaffirmed the North’s commitment to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, but did not indicate when Pyongyang would give up nuclear arms – leading to much vocal concern that they would not follow through.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, for example, said that “there is little in the joint communique or in North Korean statements to demonstrate that Kim has committed to do what Mr. Trump claims” and “there are no details about timing or process or specific goals”.
The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof started his post-summit editorial by saying: “It sure looks as if President Trump was hoodwinked in Singapore”, adding that “Trump seems to have won astonishingly little”.
And Trump’s announcement that he wanted to remove US troops from South Korea – which reportedly caught Seoul off-guard - led to former US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who helped draft a multilateral deal to curtail Iran’s uranium enrichment capabilities, saying that Trump “doesn’t believe in allies”.
North Korea solved! It was just as easy as giving Kim everything he wanted and asking nothing in return. Why didn’t previous presidents ever think of that? https://t.co/wzRc3ZBNH6
— David Frum (@davidfrum) June 13, 2018
Responding to the barrage of criticism in Seoul a day after Trump met Kim in Singapore, Pompeo said he “most definitively” expected to see nuclear disarmament before Trump’s current term ends on January 20, 2021.
“Absolutely,” he told a reporter who had asked him about the possibility of “major disarmament” before that date. “You used the term major, major disarmament, something like that? We’re hopeful that we can achieve that in the two-and-a-half years.”
“I am … confident they understand that there will be in-depth verification,” Pompeo said, adding that the initial agreement between Trump and Kim had not captured all of what had been agreed by the two sides.
“Not all of that work appeared in the final document,” said Pompeo, who travelled to South Korea after the Singapore summit to brief officials there on the outcome.
On the future of the denuclearisation process, Pompeo said, “I don’t know exactly what the timing will be for our next conversation with the North Koreans. I would anticipate it will be fairly quickly after we return to our home countries.
“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.” He added that while Trump is “in the lead”, “I will be the person driving this process forward.”
The lack of a definitive timeframe or verification mechanism for North Korea’s nuclear disarmament prompted some former US diplomats to question the utility of the summit and suggested Trump’s tactics could undermine Washington’s alliances with Seoul and Japan.
Sherman, a special advisor to former President Bill Clinton and policy coordinator on North Korea said the two leaders were acting more in the interests of their leadership standing than efforts to denuclearise North Korea.
“It’s bizarre but it might be that Kim Jong-un’s interests and Donald Trump’s interests align. Kim Jong-un wants to stay in power and needs to open up a little for that to happen,” Sherman said in a discussion with former US State Department official Daniel Russel at the New York-based Asia Society Policy Institute.
“Donald Trump wants to get to the mid terms in a better place and get re-elected in 2020. This is a really tough and thorny problem and if he’s on top of it and not afraid of this it gives him and the Republican Party some lift that they badly need.”
Sherman was also vocal about Trump’s announcement that the US would no longer take part in “war games”, and described the joint military drills with South Korea as costly and “provocative”.
“I find it stunning that the White House didn’t tell the South Koreans about stopping the joint exercises beforehand, but then again this is a president who doesn’t believe in allies.” Sherman said.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith - which both sides are!”
Trump, who returned to Washington early on Wednesday, hailed the meeting with Kim – the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader - as a success that had removed the North Korean threat.
“The scorecard against the backdrop of what the Trump administration said it was out for in Singapore is paltry,” said Russel, a former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
“There is not a gram of fissile material either moving out or likely to move out of North Korea. There’s nothing in the joint statement about the ballistic missile threat, which is a key component of the [United Nations] Security Council resolutions.
“When you objectively do the arithmetic this comes out overwhelmingly in Kim Jong-un’s favour.”
Pompeo’s defensive stance started on Tuesday, when he bridled at a question from a reporter who asked why the summit document didn’t explicitly specify the much-vaunted “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation” that the White House said it was pursuing.
“I find that question insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous,” Pompeo said. “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.”
He continued: “I suppose we could argue semantics but let me assure you it’s in the document. I am confident that they understand what we’re prepared to do, the handful of things that we’re likely not prepared to do.”
He added: “I am equally confident that they understand there will be in-depth verification.”
Even as Pompeo staunchly defended the summit results, he was less exuberant than Trump, who tweeted on his return to the US on Monday morning: “Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office.
“There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
Pompeo sought to counter concerns that North Korea and the US came away from the talks with fundamentally different interpretations.
Earlier Wednesday, North Korea’s state KCNA news agency said denuclearisation would be a “step by step process” with “simultaneous action,” a stance that appeared to contradict the US refusal to offer sanctions relief before North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons.
“I’m going to leave the content of our discussions between the two parties, but one should heavily discount some things that are written in other places,” Pompeo said.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Reuters