Pompeo Sees Path Forward With North Korea Despite Weapons Launch

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. still sees a path toward negotiating a deal with Kim Jong Un to give up North Korea’s nuclear weapons even though he may have launched a missile over the weekend, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said.

Kim oversaw a live-fire military exercise Saturday that potentially included North Korea’s first ballistic missile launch since 2017, challenging President Donald Trump’s bottom line in two previous nuclear summits with Kim.

Pompeo Sees Path Forward With North Korea Despite Weapons Launch

Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of three scheduled appearances on Sunday talk shows, that these weren’t intercontinental ballistic missiles. Rather, they were “relatively short-range” and never crossed an international boundary, meaning they weren’t a threat.

“We still believe that there’s an opportunity to get a negotiated outcome where we get fully verified denuclearization,’’ Pompeo said. “We hope that this act that he took over the weekend won’t get in the way.’’

Kim watched as “large-caliber, long-range multiple-rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons” were fired off North Korea’s eastern coast Saturday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. The state media’s report on Sunday was accompanied by a photo of what non-proliferation analysts said appeared to be the launch of a short-range ballistic missile.

While such a test would violate United Nations resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea, it would stop short of breaching Kim’s pledge to refrain from testing longer-range missiles that could threaten the U.S.

Trump brushed off the incident, saying in a tweet Saturday that Kim “does not want to break his promise to me.”

Pompeo defended Trump’s relationship with Kim, saying the U.S. continues to apply tough sanctions and make the case diplomatically to North Korea that keeping its nuclear weapons poses a risk and giving them up will help.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.