The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has insisted that sanctions against North Korea will remain in place until “complete denuclearisation” is achieved.
His comments in the South Korean capital Seoul appeared to contradict accounts in official North Korean media that the process towards lifting sanctions would be gradual and reciprocal.
The joint declaration by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reiterated Pyongyang’s commitment to “work towards complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.
“President Trump has been incredibly clear about the sequencing of denuclearisation and relief from the sanctions,” Pompeo told reporters in Seoul on Thursday. “We are going to get complete denuclearisation; only then will there be relief from the sanctions.”
North Korean state media reported on Wednesday that the two leaders had recognised the principle of “step-by-step and simultaneous action” towards that goal, saying the US president had evoked “as progress is made from dialogue and negotiations, lifting sanctions against DPRK (North Korea)”.
There has been criticism that the document signed by Trump and Kim in Singapore lacked specifics – and avoided the issue of human rights abuses in North Korea. The statement provided no details on when Pyongyang would give up its nuclear weapons programme or how the dismantling might be verified.
However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in told Pompeo the summit had helped the world “escape the threat of war, nuclear weapons and missiles”.
The US Secretary of State also held a trilateral meeting with the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers. Tokyo has reacted with concern at Trump’s surprise announcement that military exercises with South Korea are to be halted, saying that such drills are “vital” for East Asian security.
The United States has about 28,500 troops in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean war ended with a truce rather than a peace treaty.
Pompeo is touring East Asia briefing US allies on President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un. He is due to arrive in Beijing for meetings with top Chinese officials later on Thursday.
North and South Korea have held military talks for the first time in more than a decade. The meeting of top generals from both sides followed an inter-Korean summit in April between the two countries’ leaders.