Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Sunday that North Korea will receive relief from sanctions only after taking clear and irreversible steps to end its nuclear program, on the heels of President Trump’s announcement that his summit next week with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is back on.
Addressing concerns that the U.S. may be rushing to strike a breakthrough in the unprecedented summit between the two leaders, Mr. Mattis said the administration has no illusions about the difficulty of the talks with Pyongyang.
“We can anticipate, at best, a bumpy road to the [negotiations],” Mr. Mattis said at the start of a meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore. “We will continue to implement all U.N Security Council resolutions on North Korea. North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearization.”
His comments came after Mr. Trump decided Friday to proceed with the summit with Mr. Kim on June 12 in Singapore, a dramatic reversal in the high-stakes diplomacy.
Eight days after canceling the summit due to Pyongyang’s “open hostility” toward the U.S., Mr. Trump announced the decision to go ahead with the meeting after hosting Mr. Kim’s envoy in the White House.
“I think you’ll have a very positive result in the end,” Mr. Trump said after the 90-minute session with Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s Central Committee of the Workers’ Party. “We would be making a big mistake if we didn’t have it.”
But the president downplayed expectations for a quick deal on Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons, saying such an agreement won’t be signed in Singapore and the meeting will serve only as the start of “a process.”
“We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12, and we never were,” Mr. Trump said. “I told them [Friday], take your time, we can go fast or we can go slowly. We would not take sanctions off unless they did it [denuclearize]. The sanctions are very powerful.”
North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has been a source of major security tensions that persisted despite a series of U.N. and U.S. sanctions. Pyongyang also has demonstrated advances in ballistic missile technology that experts believe now threatens the U.S. mainland....Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that while the solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis must be diplomatic, the defense cooperation among the U.S. and its Asian allies was key to bringing it about.“Japan, Korea and the U.S. continue to agree that pressure is