Pompeo sees hard road ahead but pursues North Korean denuclearisation talks

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TOKYO: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brushed off North Korean charges that he used “gangster-like” diplomacy in negotiations in Pyongyang, saying on Sunday after meeting his Japanese and South Korean counterparts that he would continue to pursue denuclearisation talks with North Korea.

Pompeo said in Tokyo there was still a lot of work to do, but he was confident North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would stick to a commitment to abandon nuclear weapons he made during a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore last month.

Pompeo’s meeting with Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha followed Pompeo’s two days of talks in Pyongyang that ended on Saturday.

“When we spoke to them about denuclearisation, they did not push back,” Pompeo told a news conference. “The road ahead will be difficult and challenging and we know that critics will try to minimize the work that we’ve achieved.”

Pompeo spoke after North Korea said the talks “brought us in a dangerous situation where we may be shaken in our unshakable will for denuclearization, rather than consolidating trust.”

The statement was carried by the official KCNA news agency on Saturday soon after Pompeo left Pyongyang, raising questions about the future of the talks in which he is trying to persuade Pyongyang to give up a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States.

Kim made a broad commitment in Singapore to “work toward denuclearization” but did not give details on how or when he would dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program. Trump in turn offered security guarantees to Pyongyang and pledged a halt to large-scale military drills with South Korea.

North Korea’s latest comments, which came after Pompeo said talks had made progress, were a reminder of the difficulties that previous US administrations have had negotiating with the reclusive state.

Leaked US intelligence findings have concluded that North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear program completely.

Pompeo said he did not meet Kim on his latest visit to Pyongyang, as he had done twice before, and he had not anticipated doing so. The White House said before the trip that he would meet Kim.

In a speech later on Sunday in Vietnam, Pompeo urged North Korea to follow the example of Vietnam, saying he believed Pyongyang could replicate Hanoi’s path to normal relations with Washington and to prosperity.

“The United States has been clear on what we seek from North Korea…,” Pompeo said in Hanoi. “The choice now lies with North Korea and its people.

“If they are able to do this, they will be remembered, and Chairman Kim will be remembered, as a hero of the Korean people.”

Some analysts have expressed alarm that the talks appear to have run into difficulties, although others see a possible North Korean negotiating ploy.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Twitter there was a danger military action could be called for because Trump might now claim he had tried diplomacy but was betrayed by Kim.

“But a rushed summit and demands that NK denuclearize in short order or else is not a serious test of diplomacy,” Haass tweeted.

Japan’s Kono thanked Pompeo and said the three allies had reaffirmed a commitment to keeping sanctions on North Korea until it abandoned nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles of all ranges.

“We confirmed that security assurances will be provided to North Korea as agreed in the summit. At the same time we have reaffirmed that the international community will continue to fully implement relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” Kono said.