Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has hit back at North Korean claims that he’s partly responsible for the hard line that led President Trump to walk away from the negotiating table at the Hanoi summit last month with Kim Jong Un.
Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton created an “atmosphere of hostility and mistrust,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui charged at a diplomatic gathering in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Friday.
“They’re wrong about that, and I was there,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department Friday.
Choe said, “I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger. We have neither the intention to compromise with the U.S. in any form nor much less the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation.” Pompeo dismissed the accusation and the suggestion North Korea would end discussions on denuclearization.
“My relationship with Kim Yong Chol is professional. We have detailed conversations. I expect that we will continue to do that,” Pompeo said. “I have a vague recollection of being called ‘gangster-like’ from a visit that I took one time previously, and following that we continued to have very professional conversations where we tried our best to work together and represent our respective sides. I have every expectation that we’ll be able to continue to do that.”
In Hanoi, Trump rejected an offer that would have gutted the international sanctions imposed on North Korea in exchange for a limited dismantlement of a single site in the country’s nuclear weapons program. The two sides didn’t even agree on the definition of “denuclearization” much less a “complete freeze” on their program, according to a senior State Department official.
“[Their offer would] put us in a position of subsidizing the ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea,” the official said after the summit. “What they were asking for was basically the lifting of all sanctions.”
Choe hinted that North Korea might not only end negotiations but renew provocative missile tests “in a short period of time.”
But Pompeo insisted the administration remains optimistic a deal can be made.
“She left open the possibility that negotiations would continue for sure. It’s the administration’s desire that we continue to have conversations around this,” Pompeo said Friday. He said Kim assured Trump that he would maintain his moratorium on missile tests and added that the dictator had only one path to sanctions relief.
“The demands of those sanctions are the complete denuclearization of North Korea — the missiles, the weapons systems, the entire WMD program,” Pompeo said. “That’s the requirement laid out by the United Nations Security Council.”