BEIJING (AP) — The United States and its Asian allies worked Thursday to paper over any semblance of disagreement over President Donald Trump’s concession to Kim Jong-un that the U.S. will halt military exercises with South Korea, with Trump’s top diplomat insisting the president hadn’t backed down from his firm line on North Korea’s nukes.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meeting with top South Korean and Japanese diplomats, put a more sober spin on several moves by Trump after his summit with Kim that had fueled unease in Washington, Tokyo and Seoul. He said Trump’s curious claim that the North’s nuclear threat was over was issued with “eyes wide open,” and brushed off a North Korean state-run media report suggesting Trump would grant concessions even before the North fully rids itself of nuclear weapons.
“We’re going to get denuclearization,” Pompeo said in the South Korean capital. “Only then will there be relief from the sanctions.”
Pompeo flew from Seoul to China’s capital, Beijing, later Thursday for a meeting with President Xi Jinping, whose country is believed to wield considerable influence with North Korea as its chief ally and economic lifeline. Pompeo was also due to meet with top diplomats and hold a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
At a daily briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated China’s support for a political settlement, while also pointing to an eventual lifting of United Nations Security Council economic sanctions.
“We believe that the sanctions themselves are not the end,” Geng said.
China has been praised by Trump for ramping up economic pressure on the North that the U.S. believes helped coax Kim to the negotiating table.
On the joint U.S.-South Korea drills that Trump - after meeting Kim - said would be terminated, Pompeo emphasized a key caveat: If the mercurial North Korean leader stops negotiating in good faith, the “war games” will be back on.
The words of reassurance from Pompeo came as diplomacy continued at an intense pace after Tuesday’s summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting American president and North Korea’s leader in six decades of hostility. In the village of Panmunjom along the North-South border, the rival Koreas on Thursday held their first high-level military talks since 2007, focused on reducing tensions across their heavily fortified border....Yet even as U.S. and South Korean officials sought to parlay the momentum from the dramatic summit into more progress on the nuclear issue, there were persistent questions about