Pompeo insists dialogue with North to resume

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Pompeo insists dialogue with North to resume

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied that North Korea’s recent missile launches have dampened the mood for dialogue, saying working level talks with Pyongyang will resume “in a couple of weeks.”

In a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Pompeo delivered the Donald Trump administration’s usual, measured stance on North Korea’s recent series of provocations, saying the lack of a long-range missile or nuclear test were “good things.”

Stressing the administration remained unwavering in its strategy to achieve the North’s full, final denuclearization, Pompeo further said the U.S. was watching the actions of the regime while planning for negotiations to kick off again in “a couple of weeks.”

When asked whether the environment for discussions with Pyongyang may be dampened by the North’s recent actions, the secretary answered with a terse “No.”

The timeframe of “a couple of weeks” provided by Pompeo appears to be aimed at the closing of joint exercises between the United States and South Korea, which kicked off on Monday and are expected to continue until late this month.

While dragging its feet in restarting working level talks, Pyongyang has objected heavily to the drills as a part of what analysts say is a likely move to build up its leverage in the nuclear negotiations with the hope of gaining further concessions from Washington.

On Tuesday, North Korea’s envoy to the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament, Ju Yong-chol, slammed the U.S. for staging military exercises in consort with the South, which he said incited “military tension” on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang’s state media also said the regime’s newest test of two tactical guided missiles served as an “adequate warning” to the U.S. and South Korea in response to the drills. Analysts in South Korea and the U.S., say the regime may be trying to enhance its military capabilities with its four tests from July 25 to Tuesday, as well as two earlier ballistic missile launches in May.

In a report on Tuesday, the Washington-based North Korea research website 38 North published focused particularly on Pyongyang’s tests of a “new, guided multiple launch rocket system” on July 31 and Aug. 2, saying the regime appears to have developed a new system technically equivalent to a ballistic missile that could “provide a modest increase in the threat by subjecting more U.S. and ROK [Republic of Korea; South Korea] targets in South Korea to saturation attack.”

The White House’s biggest hardliner toward the North, National Security Adviser John Bolton, told Fox News on Tuesday that the North’s aim with its missile test earlier that day appeared to be getting the short range missiles, called KN-23 by the U.S. and South Korean intelligence, fully operational.

“The president and [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un have an understanding that Kim Jong-un is not going to launch longer range, intercontinental range ballistic missiles, and so I think the president is watching this very, very carefully,” he said.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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