Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday brushed off North Korean insults and demands that he be replaced by someone “more careful and mature” as the chief negotiator in denuclearization talks.
“Nothing has changed,” Pompeo said when asked about the comments after a meeting with Japanese officials. “We’ll continue to work to negotiate. Still in charge of the team. President Trump’s obviously in charge of the overall effort, but it’ll be my team.”
Pompeo said he and other U.S. diplomats will continue their efforts to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, as he said leader Kim Jong Un had committed to do in June.
Pompeo, who has traveled to North Korea four times in the administration’s quest to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, has been a frequent target of harsh and personal criticism from North Korean officials.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton had created an “atmosphere of hostility and mistrust” after Trump’s summit in Hanoi with Kim in February ended abruptly without an agreement. And in July, a few hours after Pompeo flew out of Pyongyang after two days of talks, the Foreign Ministry said U.S. demands were “gangster-like.”
Pompeo was again the focus of North Korean anger this week after he said during a Senate hearing that he considers Kim a tyrant. That prompted a Foreign Ministry official to say Pompeo had been “letting loose reckless remarks and sophism of all kinds against us every day.”
A statement quoting senior North Korean official Kwon Jong Gun, reported by the Korean Central News Agency, suggested Pompeo was responsible for the collapse of the summit talks in Hanoi. It said that whenever Pompeo “pokes his nose in, talks between the two countries go wrong without any results even from the point close to success.”
“I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,” Kwon said. “Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the U.S., I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but a person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”
North Korea has complained that the United States is insisting it completely denuclearize before any international sanctions are lifted, instead of offering sanctions relief in gradual steps as Kim’s government prefers.
But Pompeo and Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Friday that sanctions will stay in place until North Korea denuclearizes and settles several other issues, including the return of Japanese citizens abducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“Japan is ready to normalize relations with North Korea when its missile, nuclear and abduction issues are taken care of,” Kono said.
U.S. and Japanese officials said they had agreed that cyberattacks on either country would be considered an attack covered by Article 5 of the Japan-U. S. Security Treaty, which gets the U.N. Security Council involved in the event of any armed attack by a third country.
Pompeo also said the United States would continue to raise concerns with Russia over its interference in U.S. elections, as well as in the affairs of other countries.
“We will make very clear to them that this is unacceptable behavior,” he said. “We will take tough actions which raise the cost for Russian malign activities. And we will continue to do that.”