July 09, 2018 09:33
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ended his latest trip to North Korea on Saturday without meeting leader Kim Jong-un and trailed by accusations of "gangster-like" arm-twisting from a newly emboldened regime.
Pompeo claimed there was "progress on almost all of the central issues" in nine hours of "productive conversations" with Kim's right-hand man Kim Yong-chol and others but came away without any concrete agreement on denuclearization.
Just five hours after Pompeo left Pyongyang, a spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry in a statement complained, "The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization, just calling for... declaration and verification, all of which run counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit meeting and talks" on June 12.
It added the talks with Pompeo were "regrettable." The two sides also failed to make concrete progress on the return of the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War and the demolition of the North's missile launch site in Tongchang-ri.
Pompeo downplayed the "gangster" accusations at a press conference in Tokyo with the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan. "Sanctions will remain in place until final, fully verified denuclearization." He added, "While we are encouraged by the progress of these talks, progress alone does not justify the relaxation of the existing sanctions regime."
"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 added.
He claimed that "When we spoke to them about denuclearization, they did not push back" but admitted the "road ahead will be difficult and challenging."
There were concerns from the onset because U.S. President Donald Trump failed to set a concrete framework for denuclearization.
Now the U.S. is demanding a timeframe and verification before any rewards could be presented. In contrast, the North Korean spokesman said "phased, simultaneous actions" are "the quickest way of realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." In other words, North Korea is back to the "salami-slicing" approach that has dogged decades of fruitless negotiations.
The U.S. and North Korea agreed, however, to hold working-level talks in the border truce village of Panmunjom for the return of the U.S. soldiers' remains and form a working group to discuss denuclearization and verification.
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