North Korea and US spar over lack of progress on denuclearisation

Mike Pompeo urges nations to maintain sanctions at ASEAN Summit in Singapore

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visiting a trial operation of a new type of trolley bus at an undisclosed location in North Korea.  Photograph: KCNA via KNS/AFP/Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visiting a trial operation of a new type of trolley bus at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Photograph: KCNA via KNS/AFP/Getty Images

 

North Korea and the US have exchanged strong words at a regional summit in Singapore, with North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong-ho accusing Washington of not doing enough to build mutual trust after secretary of state Mike Pompeo urged countries to keep up sanctions.

There has been little concrete action on North Korea ending its nuclear programme since an agreement reached at a landmark summit between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June, and now tensions have flared up again.

In some ways, the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang are at odds with the apparently chummy relationship between Mr Trump and Mr Kim. The US president has tweeted about receiving “very nice” letters from Mr Kim and hoping to meet up again soon, but implementation of key summit agreements has been slow.

During the ASEAN Summit, Mr Pompeo urged Southeast Asian nations to keep up sanctions pressure until North Korea abandons its nuclear programme, as outlined in the joint statement after the June summit.

“The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) stands firm in its determination and commitment for implementing the DPRK-US joint statement in a responsible and good-faith manner,” Mr Ri said.

“What is alarming, however, is the insistent moves manifested within the US to go back to the old, far from its leader’s intention,” he said.

Backing down

He also accused the US of backing down on pledges to declare an official end to the Korean War (1950-53), which ended with a ceasefire but no formal armistice.

The two foreign ministers did not have any formal meetings at the ASEAN meeting, but they were seen talking, smiling and shaking hands on the fringes of the event, and Mr Pompeo told Mr Ri: “We should talk again soon.”

Mr Pompeo handed over a letter from Mr Trump to Mr Kim.

Mr Pompeo’s remarks are evidence of US exasperation with the continued work by North Korea on its nuclear programme, as evidenced by numerous recent reports, which he believes is inconsistent with Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearise.

He remains optimistic that denuclearisation could become a reality but said it “would take some time”.

Goodwill gestures

There have been several goodwill gestures by North Korea, including the repatriation last week of the apparent remains of 55 US military war dead. On the nuclear programme, North Korea had not carried out any fresh nuclear tests and rocket launches and had also dismantled a nuclear test ground.

“However, the United States, instead of responding to these measures, is raising its voice louder for maintaining the sanctions against the DPRK and showing the attitude to retreat even from declaring the end of the war, a very basic and primary step for providing peace on the Korean peninsula,” said Mr Ri.

Mr Pompeo called out Russia for possibly violating a UN resolution by giving work visas to North Korean workers, a claim denied by Russia.

“We expect the Russians and all countries to abide by the UN Security Council resolutions and enforce sanctions on North Korea,” he said.