|U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks on during a joint news conference with Argentina's Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie at the end of the Hemispheric Anti-Terrorism Summit, in Buenos Aires, July 19. Reuters|
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rejected charges from North Korea's Foreign Ministry that U.S. plans for military exercises with South Korea are in breach of verbal agreements made between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump.
A ministry spokesman said Tuesday that Trump had reaffirmed in a meeting with Kim last month that joint exercises would be halted and the U.S. decision to forge ahead with them was "clearly a breach" of the two leaders' agreements at their summit in Singapore last year.
The spokesman said this was putting a resumption of nuclear talks with the United States at risk, and Washington's pattern of "unilaterally reneging on its commitments" was leading Pyongyang to reconsider its commitment to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Pompeo was asked about the North Korean statements in an interview conducted Wednesday with the EWTN Catholic television network, a transcript of which the State Department released Friday.
"I saw those comments," Pompeo said. "I think we're doing exactly what President Trump promised Chairman Kim we would do with respect to those exercises. I think we're going to …. we'll get that right. I'm confident that these conversations are going to continue."
Asked if the talks with North Korea, stalled since a failed summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February, would restart soon, Pompeo replied, "I hope so."
"Chairman Kim made a commitment that they would," the secretary added. "He said that in several weeks he would put his working-level team back together; we're ready to go."
Trump had appeared to revitalize efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons when he met Kim on the border between the Koreas last month and said they had agreed to resume working-level talks stalled since the Hanoi summit collapsed.
Pompeo said at the time the talks would likely happen "sometime in July, ... probably in the next two or three weeks," but dates have yet to be announced and the North Korean statements have raised doubts about when ― and whether ― they will go ahead.
While the United States and South Korea have halted joint major exercises, long seen by North Korea as a rehearsal for war, since a pledge by Trump in Singapore, smaller ones have continued and Washington still enforces punishing international sanctions on Pyongyang.
The Pentagon said this week it was preparing to conduct a "routine" joint training program, but suggested the drills had been scaled back to facilitate diplomacy.
Admiral Philip Davidson, head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Aspen Security Forum, Thursday, that his orders were to proceed with the exercises next month. (Reuters)