US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says American sanctions on North Korea will remain in place, as talks between Washington and Pyongyang seem to have hit a snag.
Pompeo, who on Saturday arrived in Tokyo from a two-day visit to Pyongyang, met with Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in the Japanese capital on Sunday.
“Sanctions will remain in place until final, fully-verified denuclearization, as agreed to by Chairman Kim [Jong-un], occurs,” Pompeo said, referring to the North Korean leader. “While we are encouraged by the progress of these talks, progress alone does not justify the relaxation of the existing sanctions regime.”
Pompeo held more than eight hours of talks with North Korean officials on his third visit to Pyongyang on Friday.
Though Pompeo cited progress in the talks, both in his Sunday remarks and on arrival in Tokyo on Saturday, North Korea issued a statement describing Washington’s attitude as “gangster-like.”
The North, which released the statement hours after Pompeo left Pyongyang, said the administration of President Donald Trump was pushing a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization.”
No details were available from the meetings, and it was not clear what the US had specifically demanded. Formerly, Washington had called for full denuclearization “at one stage,” but it seemed to have dropped that demand later on.
In his Sunday comments, Pompeo seemed to downplay the comments made in the North Korean statement.
“People are going to make stray comments after meetings,” he said. “If I paid attention to the press, I’d go nuts.”
But he also said, “If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster,” without disclosing what the demands were.
During a much-publicized summit in Singapore last month, Trump and Kim signed a brief, broadly-worded document, according to which both sides committed to working toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Despite Pompeo’s remark on Sunday, North Korea did not pledge to unilaterally denuclearize. The document also did not offer a specific timeline for dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.
Meanwhile, North Korea has reportedly been advancing its nuclear program.
The US-based monitoring group 38 North said in an analysis late last month that infrastructure improvements at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center were “continuing at a rapid pace.