Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is still in charge of nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea a day after Pyongyang said it wanted Pompeo to be disengaged from the stalled negotiations.
In a statement run by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Kwon Jong-gun, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official, criticized Pompeo for “fabricating stories like a fiction writer.”
“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Kwon said.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Pompeo said, however, “Nothing has changed. We’ll continue to work to negotiate, still in charge of the team. President Trump’s obviously in charge of the overall effort, but it’ll be my team.”
“I am convinced we will have a real opportunity to achieve that outcome,” he said at a joint news conference after talks with Japan’s foreign and defense ministers.
The top US diplomat also said he believed maintaining diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang was possible even if Washington did not provide the sanctions relief the North had been demanding.
“We will continue to press North Korea to abandon all of its weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles related programs and facilities,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to enforce all sanctions on North Korea and encourage every country to do so.”
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met for the first time at a historic summit in Singapore in June last year, when they agreed to “work toward” denuclearization.
The two also held a second summit in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, in February, which failed after Trump walked away from the summit, claiming that Kim had insisted on the removal of all sanctions on North Korea in return. Pyongyang rejected that account, stressing that it had only asked for a partial lifting of the bans.
Pyongyang has taken several steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by suspending missile and nuclear testing, demolishing at least one nuclear test site, and agreeing to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.
The US, however, has insisted that all sanctions on the North must remain in place until it completely and irreversibly dismantles its nuclear program.