North Korea

North Korea has agreed to ‘fully’ end its nuclear weapons programme, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insists

The US will not let the current slow pace of Pyongyang’s progress towards denuclearisation ‘drag out for no end’, the state secretary vowed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2018, 3:43am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2018, 10:20pm

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a US Senate panel that North Korea has agreed to end its nuclear weapons programme.

Responding to a round of heated questioning by members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on American diplomacy practices to advance national security strategy, Pompeo said the North Korean government had “agreed to denuclearise fully”.

Asked by Senator Robert Menendez, the panel’s top Democratic senator, whether that agreement included an “end [to] the production and enrichment of uranium and plutonium for military programmes”, Pompeo said: “Yes, Senator”.

Pompeo vowed that the US would not let the current slow pace of Pyongyang’s progress towards denuclearisation “drag out for no end”.

As the hearing got underway, Pompeo declined to say whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had agreed to follow the US’s definition of denuclearisation, which refers to “a complete, verifiable, irresistible dismantling” of the country’s nuclear weapon programmes.

Pompeo said he was “very confident” that North Korea “thoroughly” understood the definition and said he would share detailed information about the results of US Donald Trump’s Singapore summit with Kim and negotiations with North Korea during the secretary’s trips to Pyongyang, in a classified session with US lawmakers.

He urged “every single nation” to remain on the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea through United Nations sanctions.

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The state secretary’s testimony at the hearing came as North Korea has shown small signs of progress towards fulfilling its denuclearisation commitments.

The North Koreans have started to dismantle an engine test stand at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, according to a report based on satellite images published on Monday by monitoring group 38 North.

US President Donald Trump praised North Korea’s actions on Tuesday during a visit to Kansas City, Missouri.

"New images just today show that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site and we appreciate that,” Trump said. “We had a fantastic meeting with Chairman Kim, and it seems to be going very well.

"We're all pursuing the denuclearisation of North Korea and a new future of prosperity, security and peace on the Korean Peninsula and all of Asia.”

However, Pompeo’s words at the hearing painted a different picture of the effort to remove nuclear weapons from the region. The secretary said the US was engaged in “complex” negotiations and called North Korea an “adversary”.

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Pompeo said Pyongyang has continued to produce nuclear materials but declined to say whether the hermit state still seeks to develop chemical weapons.

Pompeo travelled to North Korea this month hoping to come away with a road map for denuclearisation, but Pyongyang issued an angry statement as soon as the secretary left, accusing his delegation of making “gangster-like” demands.

Kim had made a broad commitment to remove nuclear weapons at his unprecedented summit with Trump in June, but offered no details as to how and when denuclearisation might take place, raising doubt about Pyongyang’s intentions.

North Korea’s last launch of a ballistic missile – its 20th of 2017 – and its third successful test of an ICBM came in November. The launch stoked fears that the North could soon have a military arsenal that would viably target the US mainland.

In response to Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations, the UN Security Council has slapped sanctions on North Korea that could see the country’s US$3 billion annual export revenue drop by a third – banning exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.

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The last several months have seen a rapid and dramatic softening in relations between North Korea, the US and American allies.

The historic Singapore summit followed a meeting between Kim and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone that has separated North and South Korea for 65 years.

It was just the third sit-down between the two Koreas since the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean war.