Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a contradicting statement Thursday to that of North Korean state media which said lifting of U.S. sanctions on the country could take place “as progress is made.”
Pompeo made the remarks during a news conference with the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers in Seoul on Thursday, a day after Kim Jong-un’s state media KCNA reported that President Donald Trump had discussed lifting sanctions against Pyongyang during the June 12 Singapore summit with Kim.
“The President of the U.S. expressed the possibility of suspending the U.S. – South Korea joint military exercises … and, as progress is made from dialogue and negotiations, lifting sanctions against DPRK,” state media said.
However, Pompeo noted on Thursday that President Trump has been very clear there would only be sanctions relief after “complete denuclearization.”
“He has said this from the very beginning, he said it again to Chairman Kim and he said it in his press conference following his meeting with Chairman Kim,” the secretary of state pointed out.
However, the Trump administration is to announce on Thursday the earliest the formal suspension of planning for major multilateral military drills in August, but South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said that such a decision would “require consultations.”
“This is an issue that involves the Korea-U.S. alliance and this requires consultations between the military authorities of the two countries Korea and the United States and it will be the case in the future as well,” she said.
According to a source familiar with the matter, the idea to suspend military exercises with South Korea had been heavily pushed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in the lead up to the Singapore summit. Pompeo is to meet with Xi on Thursday to brief him on the summit.
Still, both the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers were adamant that U.S. troops were there to stay.