Saturday 19 October 2019

North Korea 'must scrap nuclear arsenal by 2021'

Donald Trump arrives aboard Air Force One from Singapore at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump arrives aboard Air Force One from Singapore at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Christine Kim

The United States will demand that North Korea undertakes "major, major disarmament" of its nuclear programme by the end of Donald Trump's first presidential term.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, issued the first indication of a timetable for denuclearisation following the historic summit between Mr Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

A joint statement from the leaders reaffirmed North Korea's commitment to "work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" but gave no details of when Pyongyang would give up its weapons.

Mr Pompeo, speaking in Seoul, was asked if he would like to accomplish major nuclear disarmament within Mr Trump's current term, which ends on January 20, 2021.

Mike Pompeo arrives in South Korea yesterday
Mike Pompeo arrives in South Korea yesterday

He said: "Most definitively. Absolutely. You used the term major, major disarmament, something like that? We're hopeful that we can achieve that in the two-and-a-half years."

He said "understandings" had been reached with North Korea that did not appear in the statement. He added: "I am confident they understand that there will be in-depth verification."

The US secretary of state is due to visit Beijing today to brief Chinese leaders about the Singapore summit.

It came as Donald Trump yesterday told Americans they could "sleep well", safe in the knowledge that there was "no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea".

In a series of triumphant Twitter posts as he flew home from Singapore, the US president hit out at "haters" who had doubted his strategy for dealing with Kim Jong-un.

The summit was the first between a sitting American president and a North Korean leader and followed a flurry of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and angry exchanges between Trump and Kim last year that fuelled fears of war.

"Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office," Mr Trump said on Twitter. "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong-un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!"

On Tuesday, Mr Trump told a news conference that he would like to lift sanctions against the North but that this would not happen immediately.

North Korean state media lauded the summit as a resounding success, saying Mr Trump expressed his intention to halt US-South Korea military exercises, offer security guarantees to the North and lift sanctions as relations improve, a claim that was later dampened down in Washington.

And it said both men had accepted reciprocal invitations to visit each other's countries.

Mr Trump said the United States would stop military exercises with South Korea while North Korea negotiated on denuclearisation.

"We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith -which both sides are!" he said on Twitter.

But his decision drew criticism from within the ranks of his own Republican Party as well as from political foes. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Mr Trump's reasoning for halting the exercises was "ridiculous".

"It's not a burden on the American taxpayer to have a forward deployed force in South Korea," Mr Graham told CNN.

"It's a warning to China that you can't just take over the whole region. So I reject that analysis that it costs too much, but I do accept the proposition, let's stand down [on military exercises] and see if we can find a better way here."

Last night, however, there was confusion over precisely what military co-operation with South Korea Mr Trump had promised to halt.

A major military exercise is due in August. The United States maintains about 28,500 soldiers in South Korea, which remains in a technical state of war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce not a peace treaty.

On Tuesday, just after the president's surprise announcement, a spokesman for US Forces Korea said they had not received any instruction to cease joint military drills.

Mr Trump's administration had previously ruled out any concessions or lifting of sanctions without North Korea's commitment to complete, verifiable and irreversible steps to scrap a nuclear arsenal that is advanced enough to threaten America. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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