In a news briefing Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. government is "hopeful" that it can achieve the “major disarmament” of North Korea within the next “2 1/2 years, something like that.” However, he also said that no deadline had been set.
What did Pompeo say?
As his news briefing at the Hilton Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, was wrapping up, Pompeo stopped to answer one last question about the time frame for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
“As you said, I hope we’ll see — you used the term major — 'major disarmament,' something like that," Pompeo said. "Yes, we’re hopeful that we can achieve that in the next — what is it — 2 1/2 years, something like that.”
When pressed about whether the administration had set a deadline for North Korea, Pompeo clarified, “We’re hopeful we get it done. There’s a lot of work left to do.”
Reporters asked Pompeo why the phrase "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization," which had been used by the Trump administration before the summit, was not in the final document signed by President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Pompeo told reporters that although the words "verifiable and irreversible" were not in the document signed by the two leaders, the word “complete” was, and that “'complete' encompasses verifiable and irreversible. It just — I suppose we — you could argue semantics, but let me assure you that it’s in the document.”
Pompeo said that reporters fixating on the word “verifiable” being absent from the document was “silly,” “not productive,” and “unhelpful.”
When asked how exactly the denuclearization of North Korea would be verified, Pompeo said that “the modalities are beginning to develop. There’ll be a great deal of work to do. It’s — there’s a long way to go, there’s much to think about.”
A reporter asked about the steps that would be taken and whether Pompeo would like those steps to be taken over the next two years. The secretary responded:
Oh, yes, most definitely, absolutely. With respect to timelines, I don’t want to get into that. There is a public timeline that’s been – been out there, right – the North Koreans and the South Koreans have spoken of time frames. The President has said, and it’s common knowledge, the work itself takes some amount of time. We have big teams ready to go. We’ve been working on it for months to have all of the relevant parties from our labs, smartest folks – by the way, not just Americans, but partners around the world. We’re prepared to execute this once we’re in position that we can actually get to a place where we can do it. So I’m confident that the long pole in the tent will be our capacity to negotiate to that place, but I’m hopeful we can move that forward fairly quickly as well.
Pompeo added that this would “most certainly” take place “in the president's first term.”
Pompeo was also asked about how sure the U.S. was that North Korea had destroyed its nuclear testing sites. Pompeo declined to go into detail, but said that the U.S. government had a “reasonably good understanding of what took place there.”