Pompeo stresses safety of people in United States

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Pompeo stresses safety of people in United States

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement Friday about the final objective of U.S.-North Korea negotiations being “the security of the American people” is raising questions among North Korea observers about whether the U.S. government’s stance on denuclearization of North Korea has changed.

“But we’re moving forward in these conversations, lots of ideas about how we might continue to decrease the risk to the American people,” Pompeo told Fox News on Friday during a trip to Cairo. “Remember, Rich, at the end that’s the objective; it’s the security of American people.”

Although Pompeo said in the interview that, “We’ve got to get to full and final denuclearization,” some experts interpreted his message as a possible change in the internal policy of the U.S. government.

“It raised concerns that the United States might be willing to accept an agreement that only addresses the North Korean missile threat to the continental United States,” Bruce Klinger, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, told the Voice of America (VOA) over the phone on Friday.

Klinger said that if there is indeed such a change in U.S. policy, it could cause troubles in the U.S. military alliances with South Korea and Japan.

Klinger added that the change in the acronym used to describe the U.S. government’s goal in regards to denuclearization of North Korea from complete verifiable irreversible dismantling (CVID) to final, fully verified denuclearization (FFVD) by U.S. government officials last year added to speculation among North Korea watchers that the U.S. objective may have changed.

Others interpreted Pompeo’s message to mean that while the end-goal of the U.S. government in seeking complete denuclearization of North Korea has not changed, the U.S. government may be approaching this on a step-by-step process, possibly focusing first on the security of American citizens.

“Their objective is complete denuclearization, but they recognized that that can only be achieved in stages,” Gary Samore, a former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, told the VOA over the phone.

“So there’s going to have to be a freeze period, there’s going to have to be a reduction period, and there’s going to have to be an elimination period,” he continued. “So I think the United States puts priority on dealing with direct threats to the United States.”

Robert Gallucci, who was the United States’ chief negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, told the VOA that a step-by-step negotiation that involves removal of the ballistic missiles as a step may not be a bad idea.

“If they move first on ballistic missiles, and we take some move on sanctions relief, that’s not bad,” he said.

The U.S. government would have to be careful, however, not to lose all its bargaining chips in the negotiation process, according to Samore.

“If the United States agrees on [removing sanctions in return for the North’s agreement on missiles], then the United States doesn’t have ability to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear forces that threaten Japan and South Korea,” Samore told the VOA.

In his interview with Fox News on Friday, Pompeo emphasized nothing has changed in the U.S. policy on the denuclearization of North Korea.

“I don’t think there has been a single variant from the core proposition - which is the fully denuclearized North Korea as verified by international experts - is the objective of this administration,” he said. “We intend to achieve that.”

BY KIM HYUN-KI, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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