The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has backed away from a previously stated goal of North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons by the end of Donald Trumps first term in January 2021.
Pompeo is set to visit Pyongyang on Sunday for nuclear negotiations, his first trip since an earlier one was cancelled by Trump over a lack of progress. While the president has boasted of his success in reducing tensions with North Korea, he said last week he did not want to play the time game with nuclear talks, and instructed Pompeo to avoid setting a timeline.
Pompeo said earlier references to a date for the North to complete denuclearisation was a reference to talks between Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in.
My comment about 2021 was not mine. I repeated it but it was a comment that had been made by the leaders who had their inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang, Pompeo told reporters. They talked about 2021 when they were gathered there. So I was reiterating this as a timeline that they were potentially prepared to agree to.
Pompeo had previously said last months inter-Korean summit marked a shift in talks between the US and North Korea through the process of rapid denuclearisation of North Korea, to be completed by January 2021, as committed by Chairman Kim, and to construct a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.
Pompeos trip at the weekend comes as the US hopes to move forward in negotiations with the North, which has repeatedly complained the Trump administration has not reciprocated its good will. Pompeo said he expects to a plan for a second summit between Kim and Trump, and to make progress on a pathway for denuclearisation.
North Korea has complained on a weekly basis about the continued US and international sanctions placed on the country, and on Thursday said the measures were a source of mistrust. North Korea has placed a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, dismantled parts of weapons testing site, and has pushed for an easing of sanctions before it completely relinquishes its nuclear arsenal.
There is nothing the US could get from sanctions and it is no [one] other than them who will be put at disadvantage, the Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Workers Party, said in an editorial. But the US is coming up with a thorny stick of maintaining or intensifying sanctions. How senseless and rude they are.
Ri Yong-ho, North Koreas foreign minister, said at the United Nations last week that there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.