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Trump will be disappointed on North: Pompeo

Top U.S. diplomat says mission is to get back to the dialogue table
Sept 10,2019
U.S. President Donald Trump will be “very disappointed” if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un doesn’t return to negotiations, said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday.

Following up on the ostensible olive branch he extended to Pyongyang while in his home state of Kansas on Friday, Pompeo on Sunday again spoke of promises and objectives in the Trump administration’s approach to North Korea in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

On the resumption of working-level talks agreed by the two sides on June 30 but which have yet to begin, Pompeo said he was hopeful for the “best outcome” - that the North will return to discussions “in the coming days or perhaps weeks.”

To Stephanopoulos’ question about the North’s continued short-range ballistic missile tests, Pompeo expressed disapproval but again repeated that Kim had not violated his commitment not to test long-range missiles or nuclear weapons.

“It’s not that we don’t all wish - we’re disappointed that he is continuing to conduct these short-range tests. We wish that he would stop that,” Pompeo said.

“But our mission set at the State Department is very clear: to get back to the table, to present a mechanism by which we can deliver, George, what I know you share my objective of - a full, completely denuclearized and verified denuclearized North Korea.”

These remarks follow comments from Pompeo on Friday in which he appeared to try and cajole Pyongyang back to denuclearization talks with promises of “security assurances” that could supplant the North’s rationale for keeping its nukes as a deterrent to a possible U.S. military invasion. The same day, the top U.S. envoy in the stalled nuclear talks, Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, also called on Pyongyang to set aside hostility and return to dialogue “while that opportunity lasts.”

This string of conciliatory comments from leading U.S. diplomats convey a sense of concern from the Trump administration on the fruitless reality of its engagement drive with the North in spite of three high profile meetings between their leaders that gave Kim an unprecedented air of legitimacy on the world stage.

For over seventy days since the snap Trump-Kim meeting at the demilitarized zone on June 30, Pyongyang has sent a series of veiled messages to Washington suggesting it was unwilling to return to talks unless the United States showed a changed approach from its insistence on the North denuclearizing first before granting any economic concessions.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, who heads the country’s delegation in talks with the United States, has refrained from any public meetings with his counterpart Pompeo, canceling his attendance at the UN General Assembly later this month.

During his visit to South Korea last month, Biegun was widely expected to try to engage North Korean diplomats at the demilitarized zone, but he eventually returned to Washington after Pyongyang’s envoys apparently refused to meet him. The North also reportedly asked UN representatives belonging to Unicef and the United Nations Development Program to reduce their presence in Pyongyang.

And in a sign that North Korea is digging in its heels in terms of a military buildup, Kim on Friday appointed Pak Jong-chon, the country’s top artillery commander responsible for the country’s missile testing, as chief of the general staff of its military. Analysts have pointed out that such a personnel change signals that Pyongyang intends to beef up its missile development program even further while following up on the successes of its recent missile tests throughout August.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]