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U.S. supports an end to armistice

Pompeo distances himself from regime change in North Korea
Apr 21,2018
The U.S. Department of State said that it supports a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War Thursday through a peace treaty, a notion President Donald Trump has also endorsed.

Heather Nauert, spokesperson of the State Department, told reporters Thursday in a briefing, “I can just say that we would certainly like to see an end, a formal end, to the armistice, and that’s something that we would support.”

She clarified that this would mean a peace treaty to end the war, and not a return to hostilities.

When asked to elaborate what sort of role the United States is going to play in order to end the Korean War, she replied, “We’re not getting ahead of the conversations that the president will be having with [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un. We would like to see a resolution to that overall.”

But she evaded a question on whether North Korea’s final goal is a peace treaty and ultimately the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea and replied, “Folks are getting ahead of themselves when they start talking about U.S. forces.”

Trump said Tuesday at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, on the upcoming South and North Korean leader’s summit, “They do have my blessing to discuss the end to the war.“

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong said earlier this week that Seoul and Washington were exploring ways to set in place a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, which requires a formal end to the Korean War which ended in an armistice agreement.

Chung, who heads the Blue House’s National Security Office, last week met with Trump’s new security adviser, John Bolton, in Washington to discuss such matters including setting a non-aggression pact and a permanent peace regime to alleviate Pyongyang’s concerns about its survival.

Trump in his remarks Tuesday raised that the Korean War is “going on right now,” underscoring, “subject to a deal, they would certainly have my blessing.”

Nauert also confirmed that no State Department officials accompanied Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the secretary of state nominee, on his visit to North Korea to hold talks with the regime’s leader Kim.

Pompeo met with Kim in Pyongyang in early April, over Easter weekend, shortly after the CIA director was nominated as the new secretary of state to replace Rex Tillerson.

“Obviously, our conversations and negotiations with North Korea, which we’ve shared with you, have been happening at a high level, that we have had direct contact with the government of North Korea,” said Nauert, though she did not go into specifics.

“But I can tell you we are having constant conversations and communications with our other agency and department partners in preparation for this.”

Pompeo, in his Senate confirmation hearing last week, said that he has “never advocated for regime change in North Korea,” in a departure from a more hawkish stance in the past.

While Pompeo has, in the past, suggested regime change, his remarks at the confirmation hearing appeared more in line with former Secretary of State Tillerson’s position reassuring the North that Washington is not pursuing regime change or collapse, nor an accelerated reunification of the peninsula or mobilization of forces north of the demilitarized zone.

On whether the United States and North Korea share the same definition of denuclearization, Nauert reiterated, “Kim Jong-un has said that he is willing to denuclearize and is committing to do so, and we expect that as well on the part of the U.S. government. That is our policy.”

On a timeline to achieve denuclearization, she said many experts including from the Department of Energy, Department of State and Department of Defense will be “involved.”

She said that “conversations are ongoing between in the interagency” about what Washington “will ask for” and “how the meeting with the president will work.”

Washington looks “forward to having our conversations with North Korea about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” she said.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]