US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly retracted his earlier remark that North Korea has agreed to a goal of giving up its nuclear weapons by the end of US President Donald Trump’s current term in January 2021.
“My comment about 2021 was not mine. I repeated it but it was a comment that had been made by the leaders who had their inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang,” Pompeo said to reporters on Thursday, The Guardian reported. “They talked about 2021 when they were gathered there. So I was reiterating this as a timeline that they were potentially prepared to agree to.”
He was referring to a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The development comes as the top US diplomat is due to visit North Korea on Sunday for nuclear negotiations. His earlier trip to Pyongyang had been canceled by Trump over what Washington described as a lack of progress in their talks.
While repeatedly boasting his success in reducing tensions with North Korea, Trump said last week that he did not want to “play the time game” with nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang, calling on Pompeo not to set a timeline.
Pompeo had asserted previously that the inter-Korean summit last month marked a shift in talks between Washington and Pyongyang “through the process of rapid denuclearization of North Korea, to be completed by January 2021, as committed by Chairman Kim, and to construct a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
Kim initiated a rapprochement with South Korea in January. And the US started diplomatically engaging North Korea only later.
The two Koreas have since been advancing their relations. But the US’s failure to reciprocate North Korean moves has plagued diplomatic engagement between Washington and Pyongyang.
North Korean authorities have complained about continued US and international sanctions on their country, calling those measures a “source of mistrust.”
North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said at the United Nations General Assembly last week that, “There is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.”