(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dangled the prospect of a far brighter future for North Korea if leader Kim Jong Un abandons his nation’s nuclear weapons program after a summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore next month.
Speaking alongside South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha at the State Department, Pompeo said Friday he thinks the U.S. and North Korea are largely on the same page in expectations for the June 12 encounter, which will see a sitting U.S. president meet the leader of North Korea for the first time.
“If Chairman Kim chooses the right path, there is a future brimming with peace and prosperity for the North Korean people,” said Pompeo, who has led two trips to Pyongyang this year to prepare for the summit. “If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on the par with our South Korean friends.”
The remarks signaled how upbeat the Trump administration has become about the possibility that the Trump-Kim meeting will result in a secure commitment from the reclusive regime to give up its nuclear weapons program, even though Kim so far hasn’t committed to anything that his father and predecessor didn’t promise -- and renege on -- in the past.
Among the biggest concerns is a question of sequence: The U.S. so far has insisted that North Korea completely abandon its nuclear program before the Trump administration eases its “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions and diplomatic isolation. North Korea is expected to demand some form of relief almost immediately.
While Kang sought to assure reporters that the U.S. and South Korea are unified on the matter, she was slightly more moderate on the possibility of relief, saying sanctions must remain in place “until we see visible, meaningful action taken by North Korea on the denuclearization track.”
She said that the idea of the U.S. reducing its military footprint in South Korea wasn’t on the table. The U.S. has almost 30,000 soldiers stationed in the country.
Korea watchers have cautioned that North Korea may have something different in mind than the U.S. when it says it’s willing to go down a path of denuclearization. Pompeo sounded a more optimistic tone, saying discussions had already begun on what an accord would look like.
“I am confident that we have a shared understanding of the outcome that the leaders want,” Pompeo said. “We have a shared vision for what we hope when this process is completed the Korean peninsula looks like. I think we have a good understanding, and I think there is complete agreement about what the ultimate objectives are.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.