U.S. officials hope to achieve “major disarmament” of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal during President Trump’s first term in office and they have informed Kim Jong-un that joint military exercises with South Korea will resume if talks stall, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday.
“We’re hopeful that we can achieve that in the two and a half years,” Pompeo said, referencing Kim Jong-un’s commitment to work toward “complete denuclearization” in exchange for a cessation of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
Pompeo then addressed administration critics who have suggested that the absence of an explicit commitment to verification on the part of North Korea renders Kim’s pledge inconsequential.
“Let me assure you that ‘complete’ encompasses ‘verifiable’ in the minds of everyone concerned,” he said. “One can’t completely denuclearize without validating, authenticating — you pick the word.”
The comments come after Trump insisted on Twitter that Kim’s denuclearization pledge in and of itself constituted an end to the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
“Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted shortly after disembarking from his return flight to the U.S. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”
Trump’s pledge to end “war games” on the Korean Peninsula reportedly surprised the Pentagon and South Korean officials, and North Korea experts have criticized the concession, citing the Kim Dynasty’s historical penchant for reneging on denuclearization pledges.
Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the summit produced little in the way of results, adding that Trump’s overstatement of its outcome would make it more difficult to continue sanctions.
“The summit changed nothing,” Haas tweeted. “Worse yet, overselling the summit makes it harder to keep sanctions in place, further reducing pressure on NK to reduce (much less give up) its nuclear weapons and missiles.”