US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday shrugged off North Korean accusations of “gangster-like” behaviour and said sanctions on Pyongyang would only be lifted with “final” denuclearisation.
Speaking in Tokyo after two days of intense discussions in Pyongyang, Pompeo insisted the talks were making progress and were being conducted in “good faith”.
In stark contrast, Pyongyang’s take was overwhelmingly negative, with the North warning that the future of the peace process was being jeopardised by overbearing demands for its unilateral nuclear disarmament.
Speaking privately, US officials suggested the harshly worded North Korean reaction was a negotiating tactic. But after two days of theatrical amity in Pyongyang it illustrated the gulf that remains between the two sides.
In Tokyo, Pompeo briefed his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on the talks, and sought to reassure them the dialogue with North Korea would continue.
His trip to Pyongyang had been aimed at fleshing out denuclearisation commitments made during last month’s historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korea has long trumpeted a denuclearisation goal, but one that it sees as a lengthy process of undefined multilateral disarmament on the entire Korean peninsula, rather than a unilateral dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal.
Speaking in Tokyo, Pompeo said his efforts to push the North on disarmament had the backing of the entire international community.
“If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster, because there was a unanimous decision at the UN Security Council about what needs to be achieved,” he said.
While insisting again that the talks were moving forwards, he stressed that nothing had happened to merit a relaxation of the tough sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear missile program.
“Sanctions will remain in place until final, fully verified denuclearisation as agreed to by Chairman Kim occurs,” Pompeo said.
In practical terms, Pompeo mentioned only that officials from both sides would meet on July 12 to discuss the repatriation of the remains of some US soldiers killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War.