Crippling international sanctions on North Korea will not be eased until "complete denuclearization" takes place, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, dismissing claims from Pyongyang that the U.S. had offered to drop some sanctions during the process.
Pompeo spoke in South Korea two days after the historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“We’re going to get denuclearization,” Pompeo said. "Only then will there be relief from sanctions.”
Pompeo also downplayed Trump's claim that North Korea no longer represented a nuclear threat.
"When he talked about the reduction in nuclear threat ... it was with eyes wide open," Pompeo said. "It could be the case that our effort will not work, but we are determined to set the conditions."
The declaration signed by the leaders was vague, stating that the two nations would cooperate toward "new relations," with the U.S. providing undefined security guarantees to North Korea.
Afterward, Trump said sanctions would remain in place for now but that the U.S. would halt the massive U.S.-South Korea military drills that repeatedly riled Kim over the years.
"We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should," Trump said.
A halt in the exercises, in return for denuclearization, had been suggested by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin months ago. Still, Trump's remarks came as a surprise in South Korea, where the exercises are viewed as a crucial deterrent against possible aggression from the North.
The thaw between the two Koreas continued Thursday, with the nations agreeing to restore military communication lines, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.
North Korean media, normally quiet on its leader's international political dealings, ran Trump-Kim news on front pages. The meeting was described as a big win for the secretive, economically depressed nation of 25 million people.
"Trump expressed his intention to halt U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, offer security guarantees to the North and lift sanctions against it along with advance in improving the mutual relationship through dialogue and negotiation," state media said.
Lee Jong-seok, a former unification minister in South Korea, said Pyongyang likely will take measures to denuclearize within the next two to three weeks. Lee, speaking at a forum in Seongnam, South Korea, said he expects the two nations will reveal details not included in the accord within the next few weeks, Yonhap reported.