WASHINGTON D.C., May 6, 2019, Yonhap. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the U.S. still has “every intention” to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear program despite its weapons tests over the weekend, reported the Yonhap.
In an interview with Fox News, Pompeo said the North’s launches on Saturday (local time) were “of a short range” and expressed the U.S. government’s “high confidence” that they did not involve intermediate, long-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles.
He noted that an evaluation is under way to determine the exact nature of the tests.
“We still have every intention of negotiating a good resolution with North Korea to get them to denuclearize,” the secretary said.
“We’ve known it would be a long path. We’ve known it wouldn’t be straightforward. But I have extended our negotiating hand to the North Koreans since Hanoi. We’ve heard back from them. I extend my hand to continue those negotiations. We want to continue to work towards a peaceful resolution to achieve denuclearization, fully verified, in North Korea,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a second summit in Vietnam in February to negotiate the North’s denuclearization in exchange for sanctions relief from the U.S.
The summit ended without a deal due to differences over the extent of measures each side was willing to take.
Saturday’s firings appeared to signal Pyongyang’s frustration with Washington over the impasse.
According to North Korean state media, they were part of a “strike drill” for multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons, which was overseen by Kim.
Pompeo refused to characterize the weekend’s tests as a violation of the North’s self-imposed moratorium on missile testing, in effect since November 2017.
“We’ll have to take a look,” Pompeo said. “We know our objective. The moratorium was focused, very focused, on intercontinental missile systems, the ones that threaten the United States for sure.”
In a tweet Saturday morning, Trump expressed his confidence that Kim will honor his commitment to denuclearization.
“Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it,” he wrote. “He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”
In a separate interview with ABC on Sunday, Pompeo stressed that Saturday’s projectiles did not cross any international boundary, landed in waters east of North Korea and presented no threat to the U.S., South Korea or Japan.
He also pointed to the timing of the launches, saying they took place shortly after Kim’s first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.
That meeting was widely seen as Kim’s push to secure sanctions relief from other major powers.
“And so clearly, Chairman Kim has not yet been able to get precisely what he wanted, but we hope that we can get back to the table and find the path forward,” Pompeo said.
The secretary also showed little concern for Kim’s earlier remarks that he will wait until the end of the year for the U.S. to change its negotiating position.
“I don’t know that there’s anything particularly significant about his statement at the end of the year,” he said. “We’re watching closely the North Korean behavior, as are our allies Japan and South Korea and the region. We still believe there is a path forward.”
Meanwhile, Pompeo noted, the U.N. Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang continue to be enforced.
“We’re expending a lot of energy to do that,” he said. “We think it’s simply important that we play out every diplomatic opportunity, every opportunity we have to have these nuclear weapons depart, and verify that without the use of force.”
He later added: “Before we go another direction, we want to see if there’s any possibility we can achieve this outcome.”
On the possibility of easing sanctions to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people, Pompeo only noted that the existing sanctions regime allows for exceptions for food aid.
He also acknowledged that his North Korean counterpart in the negotiations, Kim Yong-chol, may have been removed from his post following the collapse of the Hanoi summit.
“It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations that my counterpart will be someone else, but we don’t know that for sure,” Pompeo said.
Speaking to CBS, the secretary said he talked with Trump about North Korea Saturday night.
“We’re still evaluating the appropriate response, but I want everyone in your audience to know we’re going to exhaust every diplomatic opportunity there is,” he said. “We still believe there is a path forward where Chairman Kim can denuclearize without resort to anything beyond diplomacy.”