Questions about perceived gaps in the joint statement signed by President Trump and Kim Jong Un are “insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Wednesday in Seoul, where he is briefing South Korea on Tuesday’s U.S.-North Korean summit in Singapore.
Asked specifically about verification of Pyongyang’s denuclearization and whether it will be irreversible — objectives outlined by Trump but unmentioned in the statement — Pompeo said: “The modalities are beginning to develop. There will be a great deal of work to do. There’s a long way to go. There’s much to think about.”
“But don’t say silly things,” he said. “No, don’t. It’s not productive.”
Pompeo said the statement’s reference to “complete” denuclearization “encompasses verifiable and irreversible.”
His remarks came as lawmakers, analysts and much of the media coverage of the summit have raised questions about what was achieved there, at least as reflected in the brief joint statement. On arrival in Washington early Wednesday, Trump tweeted that North Korea is “no longer” a nuclear threat and that “Fake News so easily promulgated by fools” was “Our Country’s biggest enemy.”
Pompeo, referring to his extensive pre-summit communications with North Korea and the summit itself, said he was not going to talk about “discussions between the two parties.”
He said he was confident that the North Koreans “understand what we’re prepared to do, [the] handful of things we’re not likely to do. . . . I am equally confident they understand that there will be in-depth verification.”
“Not all of that work appeared in the final document,” Pompeo said. “But lots of other places where there were understandings reached, we couldn’t reduce them to writing.” That work, he said, was “beyond what was seen in the final document that will be in the place that we will begin when we return to our conversations.”
North Korea’s state-controlled media provided its version of events Wednesday, saying that Trump had promised to end joint military exercises with South Korea and to eventually lift sanctions. It said that he had also agreed to “step by step” denuclearization, rather than the rapid and irreversible process the administration said it was demanding.
Pompeo said he expected the completion of the process “most definitely” within the next two years.
“We have big teams ready to go. We’ve been working on it for months to have all of the relevant parties from our labs, smartest folks — by the way not just Americans but partners around the world,” he said. “We’re prepared to execute this once we’re in a position that we can actually get to a place where we can do it.”
He said he was confident in the administration’s “capacity to negotiate to that place . . . most certainly in the president’s first term . . . in the 2½ years.”
Seoul has expressed concern over Trump’s agreement, mentioned in his news conference, to cancel what he called “provocative” and “expensive” joint military exercises with South Korea.
Pompeo said that Trump, in his discussion with Kim, “made it very clear that the condition precedent for the exercises not to proceed was a productive, good-faith negotiations being ongoing. And at the point that it’s concluded they are not, the president’s commitment to not have those joint exercises take place will no longer be in effect.”
Pompeo said that he was “present when the discussion took place” and that Trump was “unambiguous about that and how he communicated it” to the North Korean leader.
He said he anticipated the next discussion with North Korea would take place “fairly quickly after we return to our home countries. I don’t know exactly what form that will take, but I’m very confident that by some time in the next week or so we will begin the engagement.”
While “the president is in the lead,” Pompeo said, “I will be the person who takes the role of driving this process forward.”
Pompeo was scheduled to travel next to Beijing before returning to Washington.