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Pompeo sticks with upbeat view of North Korea talks despite ‘gangster’ rebuke

A photo provided by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (2nd L) shaking hands with Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee after his arrival at Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), on July 7, 2018. Mike Pompeo was in Pyongyang on Saturday for talks with DPRK officials. (Kcna/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is sticking with a positive assessment of his talks in Pyongyang despite North Korea calling American denuclearization requests “gangster-like.”

Pompeo initially described discussions with senior communist official Kim Yong Chol in the North’s capital Friday and Saturday as “productive.”

He stuck with the upbeat assessment after arriving in Tokyo for his first visit as secretary of state Sunday despite complaints by the North that the U.S. was not acting in the spirit of the June 12 summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un.

“The U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization,” a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement to the official KCNA news agency Saturday.

However, Pompeo told reporters in Tokyo that his talks with Kim were “good faith, productive conversation[s].”

The “requests” asked of North Korea were in line with the “unanimous decision by the [United Nations] Security Council on what needs to be achieved,” he said.

“If the requests were gangster-like, then the whole world is a gangster,” Pompeo said, brushing off the North’s statement as a “stray comment” to the media.

North Korea “did not push back” regarding the broad nature of calls for denuclearization and reaffirmed a commitment to destroy its missile-engine test site, he said.

“I am counting on Chairman Kim to be determined to follow through on the commitments,” said Pompeo, who has held three rounds of talks in Pyongyang.

Pompeo and Kim discussed timelines for denuclearization and further talks, he said.

The two sides also plan to meet on Thursday to discuss the North’s summit promise to return remains of Americans soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters in Tokyo that Pompeo’s meeting was a “first step” toward implementing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korea-U.S. alliance is “firm and strong,” she said, adding that recent decisions to suspend annual South Korea-U.S. war games were “taken jointly.”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has said that the drills were halted to “create space for our diplomats to negotiate strongly and increase the prospect for a peaceful solution on the peninsula.”

Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono said his country wants “to initiate a new start” to its relations with North Korea.

“Japan is determined to continue playing a major role in realizing peace and stability throughout Northeast Asia in close coordination with the U.S. and [South Korea],” Kono said.

Japan is seeking the return of 12 citizens abducted by North Korea, and Pompeo said he has mentioned the issue each time he has met with North Korean leaders.

At his next meeting with the North Koreans, Pompeo said, he would discuss the possible return of servicemembers who were prisoners of war or missing in action in North Korea.


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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