(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is ready to allow investments in North Korea once it has verifiable proof of the Asian nation’s denuclearization, two of President Donald Trump’s top national security officials said.
“We’re prepared to open the trade and investment with North Korea as soon as we can,” National Security Adviser John Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of two appearances on Sunday political shows.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went further in an interview on CBS. He talked of the potential for U.S. investment in the North Asian nation from America’s “entrepreneurs, our risk takers, our capital providers” to help North Korea’s people “get the opportunity that they so richly deserve.”
Before any such benefits flow, though, Bolton and Pompeo said the U.S. must have proof that the denuclearization process is complete, verifiable, and irreversible.
The remarks come ahead of a historic summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore on June 12 that may pave the way for the North Korean dictator to give up his nuclear arsenal. It will be the first time a sitting U.S. president meets the leader of North Korea.
Not Seeing Stars
Kim is expected to seek swift relief from severe economic sanctions in exchange for steps to shut down its nuclear program. The U.S. has insisted that Pyongyang completely abandon its nuclear program before easing its “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions and diplomatic isolation.
“He sees the chance of a breakthrough, but I don’t think he has stars in his eyes over this,” Bolton said of Trump.
Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday” that North Korea would be allowed access to private-sector U.S. capital for infrastructure projects if “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” occurs.
“We can create conditions for real economic prosperity for the North Korean people that will rival that of the south,” Pompeo added.
That will be a heavy lift, however: The Central Intelligence Agency estimates 2017 per-capita gross domestic product for South Korea at $39,400 against North Korea’s $1,700 in 2015, the most recent figure available. North Korea’s per-capita GDP ranked it 214 out of 228 countries.
“Private-sector Americans, not the U.S. taxpayer” would go into North Korea to “help build out the energy grid,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.” “To work with them to develop infrastructure. All the things that the North Korean people need.”
The Singapore summit comes amid a broader warming of North Korea’s relations with the U.S. and South Korea that’s gained momentum in amid steps by Kim to ease tensions. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in late April to finally put an end to the seven-decade war between the two nations and seek a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Pompeo has spent“a great deal of time with Chairman Kim” on two recent visits to Pyongyang, he said. “He’s able to deal with complexity when the conversation requires it,” he said of Kim, whose age is estimated at 34 to 36.
North Korea on Saturday said it would dismantle its nuclear test site and invite foreign journalists to observe, a largely symbolic move ahead of the meeting with Trump. North Korea also freed three U.S. citizens who’d been imprisoned there.
On “Face the Nation,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said getting North Korea to denuclearize is complicated, because its program is “dramatically larger” than Iran’s, with miles of tunnels, multiple sites and existing weapons. Gates put the odds of immediate success as “very low.”
But Trump goes into the meeting “with a lot of cards to play,” Gates said, including a possible peace treaty, diplomatic recognition and a promise not to overthrow the regime.
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