Following the historic summit between the leaders of the USA and North Korea in Singapore on Tuesday, the first meeting between the heads of these two countries in 60 years, US government officials seem to be somewhat distancing themselves from US President Trump’s, earlier statements. US Secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, stated that the US will not ease sanctions until denuclearization is achieved.
US president Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un have both promised denuclearization for the Korean Peninsula, a monumental and welcomed statement, although no details have been given as to how this will actually be achieved. The formal agreement both leaders signed has been described as vague at best regarding details of the disarmament. Trump had gone as far as saying that North Korea’s nuclear threat is over to the unease of many in Washington.
Pompeo was in part responding to a report from North Korean media that the US may ease sanctions even before denuclearization was fully achieved. He made the statement while meeting with Top South Korean and Japanese diplomats.
Diverging from the president’s utterances, Harry Harris, Trump’s pick to become ambassador to South Korea, stated that the US must continue to worry about North Korea’s nuclear threat. Interestingly, he agreed on Trump’s promise to stop military exercises with South Korea – something North Korea viewed as preparation for an invasion of the North. This was a point of contention for US allies South Korea and Japan who were bewildered by Trump’s statement and view the military exercises as essential parts of their national security. The US had stationed combat troops in South Korea since the end of the Korean War which that country has relied on for its security having no effective counter of its own for the North Korean military might.
Pompeo was tasked with mending the situation after the fall out from Trump’s unexpected comments – a regular occurrence for government staff since the advent of his presidency. He assured representatives of Korea and Japan that exercises could be resumed if the unpredictable Kim Jung Un reneged on his promises.
Meanwhile, Pompeo has indicated that onus of the work will now fall on lower level diplomats to actually complete the deal. He noted that there is still a risk that denuclearization will not be achieved as there is still much to work to be done.