State Dept pushes back on suggestion it's softening stance on North Korea

Yonhap  EPA  REX  Shutterstock

Yonhap EPA REX Shutterstock

The games precede a visit to North Korea by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for meetings over the future of the North's nuclear program.

Pompeo will press North Korea to take concrete action to back up its commitment to "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula made at the June summit between President Donald Trump and the North's Kim Jong Un.

Pompeo said he was seeking to "fill in" some details on North Korea's commitments and maintain the momentum toward implementation of the agreement from the summit, according to the pool report. It will also include his first overnight stay in the North Korean capital.

"I'm confident what he intended there was, 'We did reduce the threat, ' " Pompeo said last week at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

"Nothing could be further from the truth", Nauert said in a statement.

The report, which was noted by United Press International, cited a source familiar with Chinese and North Korean affairs saying the two leaders have agreed not to rush negotiations with Washington that now are likely to see a US troop withdrawal included.

The main problem with this policy change will be within the United States, as opponents of the talks are going to present it as Trump weakening his position, and North Korea giving up something short of everything. The two leaders did not, however, sign off on any details as to how denuclearization would be achieved and monitored. Meanwhile the USA agreed to halt their joint exercises with South Korea.

Officials from Seoul who sat at the podium were Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon; Roh Tae-kang, second vice minister of culture, sports and tourism; Bang Yeul, head of the Korean Basketball Association; and a general director-level official from the Prime Ministers' Office. Experts have warned that verifying and removing Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, a challenge that has bedeviled successive USA administrations, could easily take 10 years even assuming full North Korean compliance, which is also not a given. For example, North Korea announced in May it had blown up tunnels in order to cave in its Punggye-ri nuclear testing site, but satellite images from last September suggested the site had already partially collapsed and was unusable. "If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!" he tweeted earlier this week.

Authoritarian North Korea is sensitive to outside criticism about its human rights record because it sees them as insults to its supreme leadership.

In years past, North Korea has set a list of preconditions for its nuclear disarmament.

Two days of friendly basketball games winding up Thursday in Pyongyang were the latest in a slew of goodwill gestures between the Koreas in recent months.

Still, South Korea's belief that this is the best strategy is likely to carry a lot of weight, particularly since the South Korean government has been informing the USA on a lot of the specifics of North Korea diplomacy. She added that Pompeo has an opportunity to bring "much needed coherence" to the negotiating process. The other is an Elton John CD, which was autographed by Trump.

Pompeo said: "Since the summit the consultations have continued". "Physically, we would be able to dismantle the overwhelming bulk of their programs within a year".

North Korea has said it will not comply with Tokyo's demand for a resolution of the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the North decades ago unless Japan lifts unilateral economic sanctions, sources close to bilateral ties said Thursday.

"If you don't have the technical people with you, you can't negotiate".

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