US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that sanctions on North Korea will remain until verified denuclearization. He urged the North to follow the ‘Vietnam path’ after Pyongyang accused the US of making “gangster-like” demands.

“North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to complete denuclearization,” Pompeo said at the trilateral news conference in Tokyo, where he was joined by Japanese and South Korean officials. The US secretary of state was on a two-day visit to Pyongyang for high-level talks with Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee.

The North also backed its earlier promises “to destroy its missile engine test site,” according to Pompeo. Both US and North Korean officials discussed what full denuclearization would mean at the high-level talks, he said. “There will be a verification connected to the complete denuclearization.”

However, Pompeo noted that punitive sanctions, which have been imposed on Pyongyang since 2008, will remain in place until “final, fully verified denuclearization.”

The top US official also shrugged off Pyongyang’s accusation of Washington’s “gangster-like” demands on denuclearization, remarking that if he paid attention to every media report, he’d “go nuts.” On Saturday, Pyongyang lambasted Washington, accusing it of seeking unilateral and forced denuclearization from North Korea.

“The US is fatally mistaken if it went to the extent of regarding that the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] would be compelled to accept, out of its patience, the demands reflecting its gangster-like mindset,” Pyongyang cautioned.

Hours before the North’s statement, Pompeo had claimed that progress had been made “on almost all of the central issues” in his talks with Pyongyang.

Upon leaving Japan, Pompeo arrived in Vietnam – the country he held up as an example for North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un in terms of normalizing relations with the US and engagement with the world. “It’s yours if you’ll you seize the moment. This miracle can be yours. It can be your miracle in North Korea as well,” he said, suggesting that being “alongside the United States” brings prosperity. “We follow through on American promises,” Pomeo told business executives in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, as cited by the Washington Post. The US and Vietnam started normalizing relations in mid-80s following the devastating war of the ‘70s.

US President Donald Trump granted Kim Jong-un a number of concessions after a historic summit on June 12 in Singapore, promising to temporarily end bi-annual military exercises with South Korea. He also promised to remove sanctions “when we are sure that the nukes are no longer a factor.” On his way home from Singapore, Trump declared that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat to the US.

However, in another twist of approach towards Kim – who Trump once called “Little Rocket Man” – the US administration renewed its sanctions on North Korea for another year. The move came shortly after the landmark summit, probably signaling a return to business as usual.



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