Pompeo: North is still making nuke materials

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Pompeo: North is still making nuke materials

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged North Korea’s continued production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, even as it makes progress toward denuclearization, in a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Washington was continuing its doctrine of “maximum pressure” even after the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June, and said sanctions would be enforced until the North is induced into fully denuclearizing.

When asked by Democratic Senator Ed Markey about whether North Korea had continued to produce fissile material for nuclear bombs, Pompeo admitted, “Yes, they continue to produce fissile material.” He could not answer whether North Korea had continued to pursue its submarine-launched ballistic missile program, but said the North Koreans “understand precisely our definition of denuclearization,” along with the “scope” of what it entails, which he indicated includes its chemical and biological weapons. The North has “agreed to” this, Pompeo emphasized.

On whether there was any verifiable evidence of progress toward denuclearization, Pompeo said, “Oh, yes, absolutely,” referring to ongoing talks and the North’s recent dismantling of its Sohae missile engine test facility.

“Fear not,” he said in reply to another senator’s concerns about North Korea’s delaying tactics. “We have not been taken for a ride.”

Pompeo confirmed that Washington was still maintaining its policy of maximum pressure on North Korea, referring to an “unequal sanctions regime” that has been placed on the North. “We made incredibly clear that we will continue to enforce that sanctions regime until such time as denuclearization as we defined it is complete,” he said. But he acknowledged that there is “lots of work to do.”

He said that “nothing has changed” in the Trump administration’s goals on North Korea. “Our objective remains the final fully verified denuclearization [FFVD] of North Korea, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong-un. We are engaged in patient diplomacy, but we will not let this drag out to no end.”

Republican Senator Cory Gardner asked Pompeo to clarify if the administration’s line of FFVD was interchangeable with CVID, or complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization, and why there was a change in wording. “Sometimes one just needs break away,” Pompeo said. “They mean the same thing.”

Pompeo further confirmed that the goal still remains to have CVID by the end of Trump’s first term as president in 2021. “More quickly, if possible,” he said. He also differentiated the Trump administration’s policy of “patient diplomacy” from the Barack Obama administration’s “strategic patience” policy.

“Here we have a strategic objective backed up with diplomatic and economic pressure which we believe gives us a pathway to achieve an objective and also an off-ramp in the event that we conclude that it doesn’t work to head another direction to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea,” Pompeo said. Trump’s “firm conviction that diplomacy and engagement are preferable to conflict and hostility,” are the principles guiding the administration’s “actions on North Korea,” Pompeo added.

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