The United States is hopeful North Korea will continue to refrain from nuclear tests and long-range missile tests, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday, after Pyongyang said it had conducted a “very important” test over the weekend.
North Korea said the test occurred at its Dongchang-ri satellite launch site on Saturday, raising tensions ahead of a year-end deadline North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has imposed for the US to show flexibility in their negotiations on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
“Chairman Kim personally made the commitment to denuclearize, said there wouldn’t be long-range missile tests, nuclear tests,” Pompeo said at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the State Department.
“All of those are commitments that we are very hopeful that the North Koreans will continue to abide by,” he added.
North Korea has strongly suggested it will return to testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons if the US fails to offer concessions in their negotiations by the end of the year.
South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said Tuesday that Saturday’s test involved a rocket engine.
“We continue to work to try and develop places where we can communicate, negotiation mechanisms where we can talk to them about paths forward to achieve the denuclearization that both Foreign Minister Lavrov and I are determined to help the North Koreans achieve,” Pompeo continued.
“It’s a place where we have overlap on our objective. We need to jointly figure out a way together to assist the North Koreans to get there so that North Korea can, and the North Korean people can have the brighter future that (US) President (Donald) Trump has spoken so often about,” he said.
Trump and Kim have met three times since June 2018 to try to reach a deal, but negotiations between the two countries have stalled since the collapse of the second Trump-Kim summit in February, with the sides apart on how much Pyongyang will need to denuclearize in order to receive sanctions relief and other concessions from Washington.
Lavrov repeated Moscow’s call for reciprocal steps by Washington and Pyongyang, saying, “You cannot demand North Korea do everything and right now, and only then go back to ensuring its security and lifting the sanctions.”
The Russian foreign minister also blamed the current impasse on the reluctance of the international community to respond to North Korea’s urgent humanitarian needs due to sanctions on the regime.
“Those goods that are not being covered by any sanctions, neither the UN sanctions nor the US sanctions, are very hard to deliver to North Korea because producing companies, as well as transportation companies, are afraid,” he said. “They’re simply afraid, for only mentioning that they have certain, even though legitimate business but business with North Korea, they can be punished again.”
Pompeo noted Russia’s “good work” in sanctions enforcement against North Korea. He also expressed hope Moscow will repatriate all North Korean workers by the UN mandated deadline of Dec. 22.
“These are all driven by the UN Security Council resolutions that the Russians voted for themselves,” the top US diplomat said. “There are many North Korean workers that have been in Russia. The UN Security Council resolution requires them to depart. We’re hopeful they’ll be able to complete that and come into full compliance with that.”