Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday reiterated his view that planned working-level talks between the U.S. and North Korea will take place in the next few weeks, just hours after the DPRK reported a recent test of a “new-type” tactical guided weapon.
Speaking in an interview, the Secretary of State said the North Korean leader had committed to continuing a self-declared moratorium on launching intermediate-range and long-range missiles at a summit with President Trump last month.
“He also said that he would put his negotiating team back in the game, that we’d have another round of negotiations,” he told Fox News’s Bret Baier.
“And we’re working our way towards that,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to pull that off in just a handful of weeks.”
Seeking to downplay the impact of North Korea’s Thursday missile test, Pompeo stressed the U.S. was “still going to proceed” with diplomacy and that Pyongyang was likely seeking to build leverage ahead of negotiations.
“I think this allows the negotiations to go forward,” he said. “Lots of countries posture before they come to the table.”
The Secretary of State earlier in the day went into more detail in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
“Everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage, and create risk for the other side,” Pompeo said, reiterating that Kim Jong Un had committed on paper to denuclearization.
“We remain convinced that there’s a diplomatic way forward, a negotiated solution to this,” he continued. “It’ll be in a couple weeks, I anticipate. Everybody’s got to get schedules right.”
“If we wait two weeks or four weeks or six weeks to make sure that we’ve had enough conversations so that there can be productive dialogue when the teams get together, that’s the real objective. If it takes us another two weeks or four weeks, so be it.”
His comments come following several moves by North Korea that have sought to up the pressure on the U.S. in recent weeks.
Two statements by the DPRK foreign ministry last week denounced a planned upcoming joint military drill by the U.S. and South Korea, warning the country may reconsider its involvement in upcoming working-level talks should the exercise go ahead.
Kim Jong Un was then on Tuesday reported to have visited a “new-type” of military submarine, reportedly constructed with the leader’s “meticulous guidance and special attention.”
“Making a round of the submarine, the Supreme Leader learned in detail about its operational and tactical data and combat weapon systems,” state media said.
The Secretary of State also during his interview with Fox on Thursday sought to downplay that inspection — which analysts believe to have been of a vessel capable of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
“I went to a defense facility,” he said. “We all go look at our militaries, and we all take pictures of them.”
Pompeo’s comments echoed those of President Trump earlier in the day, in which he told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that he was “getting along very well” with Kim Jong Un and dismissed Thursday’s test as routine.
“They haven’t done nuclear testing, they haven’t tested missiles apart from smaller ones, which is something that lots [of countries] test,” the President said.
North Korean media on Friday reported that Thursday’s missile test had been of a “new-type” tactical guided weapon, and that Kim Jong Un personally organized and guided the “power demonstration” of the missile.
The test, state-run outlet the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, was aimed at sending a warning to South Korea in light of upcoming drills and its recent deployment of new high-tech weapons on the peninsula.
The South Korean government condemned the launch, with a regular meeting of the standing committee of the country’s presidential National Security Office (NSO) having “expressed strong concerns” over the move.