Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said North Korea will not see any sanctions relief until the country denuclearises, undercutting Pyongyang’s suggestion that Donald Trump had agreed to ease economic restrictions.
The top US diplomat clarified America’s position as he conferred with South Korean and Japanese officials after Mr Trump’s high-stakes met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a high-stakes effort to convince Mr Kim to scrap his country’s nuclear programme.
After that meeting, North Korean state media said Mr Trump had agreed to lift economic sanctions. But Mr Pompeo shot down that claim, signaling that America would continue to hew to its “maximum pressure” campaign of choking sanctions until Pyongyang had verifiably dismantled its arsenal.
“We are going to get denuclearisation”, Mr Pompeo said, adding that “only then will there be relief from the sanctions.”
A joint statement released by Mr Trump and Mr Kim after their meeting pledged that North Korea would “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”. Mr Pompeo said he expected North Korea to take steps towards denuclearisation over the remainder of Mr Trump’s current four-year term.
Administration officials credit a concerted international effort to isolate North Korea and stifle its economy as a key factor in bringing Pyongyang to the negotiating table.
While the Trump administration has rejected the notion of imminently lifting sanctions, Mr Trump offered a key concession in saying America would suspend joint military exercises that the North has long denounced as a prelude to an invasion.
South Korean officials who met with Mr Pompeo hailed the summit for bringing the world back from the brink of potential armed conflict. President Moon Jae-in said the meeting helped shift “from the era of hostility towards the era of dialogue, of peace and prosperity”.
America and its allies insist that any nuclear deal must entail complete and verifiable destruction of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons. In the months leading up to the summit, North Korea threatened the world with a series of bellicose statements as well as tests of ballistic missiles and a powerful hydrogen bomb.