Military deal bothered PompeoU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was unhappy about the inter-Korean military agreement signed during the Pyongyang summit last month, Seoul’s top diplomat confirmed.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha admitted during a parliamentary audit Wednesday that Pompeo expressed discontent about “not being briefed sufficiently” on the inter-Korean military pact ahead of the summit and “had many questions” on the topic.
It is rare for Seoul to publicly admit to any disagreement with Washington.
Kang responded to a lawmaker’s question following a report from Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun that said that Pompeo had been angry over the military pact and used harsh language with Kang over the phone.
Kang, however, denied that “strong language” had been used. She also clarified that the phone call with Pompeo happened before the inter-Korean summit, not after.
The comprehensive military agreement was signed by the Koreas’ defense ministers on Sept. 19 during South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang. It is aimed at reducing inter-Korean border military tensions. The agreement’s measures included the withdrawal of guard posts at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a no-fly zone over parts of the military demarcation line (MDL) as well as the disarmament of the Joint Security Area (JSA), which requires consultations with the UN Command.
The Nihon Keizai reported that Pompeo was especially angry over the no-fly zone over the MDL.
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the government “closely consulted with the U.S. side during the entire process of the inter-Korean military talks and the signing of the agreement, and will continue to do so in the implementation process across the board.”
Kang and Pompeo spoke by phone twice on Sept. 17, a day before the three-day inter-Korean summit kicked off. Their first conversation took place over 40 minutes that morning and was mostly about the inter-Korean military pact.
“It is not true that strong language was used,” a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Thursday, adding Pompeo wanted to confirm with Kang questions he had on the inter-Korean pact. After confusion was cleared up, the subsequent second phone call held in the evening “had a quite respectful tone.”
The official added that prior to the call, “there had been close consultations between South Korean and U.S. military authorities, through U.S. Forces Korea and UN Command channels on the inter-Korean military pact.”
However, the official said, “Pompeo appears to have received a report on his desk on the inter-Korean military pact, according to the U.S. system, and determined he had not been sufficiently briefed on it and had many areas he would like to confirm, so he called Kang right away. That is how frequently the two contact each other.”
Kang was said to have responded to Pompeo’s concerns and explained that the military agreement came after the two countries’ military authorities communicated beforehand. The U.S. side said that it would confirm this and the phone conversation ended.
The second, shorter phone conversation took place when Pompeo called Kang over her mobile phone later that evening after he confirmed internally what he had learned from their earlier conversation, said this official. “Secretary Pompeo wished for a good outcome from the inter-Korean Pyongyang summit.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]