Speaking with reporters in Seoul, South Korea, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US expects North Korea to take steps toward a "major" nuclear disarmament within the next two-and-a-half years, the Associated Press and Reuters reported. While he refused to lay out a specific timeline, Pompeo said he's hopeful that steps toward a "major, major disarmament" will be taken before the end of Trump's current term, which ends in January 2021.
"Oh yes, most definitively. Absolutely ... you used the term major, major disarmament, something like that? We’re hopeful that we can achieve that in the 2-1/2 years."
The Secretary of State also pushed back against North Korean media's portrayal of the summit, saying "one should heavily discount some things that are written in other places." He added that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "understands that there will be in-depth verification" of the country's nuclear commitments if it does reach a deal with the US. Ahead of the summit, Pompeo made clear to the North Koreans that any deal must include "complete, verifiable and irreversible" denuclearization.
However, despite his assurances, reporters appeared to fixate on the vague nature of the agreement signed by Trump and Kim, but Pompeo insisted that it's ridiculous to focus on the fact that the agreement lacked one word - "verifiable" - arguing instead that the language in the statement was sufficient "in the minds of everyone concerned."
"I am ... confident they understand that there will be in-depth verification," Pompeo said, saying the initial agreement between Trump and Kim had not captured all of what had been agreed by the two sides.
"Not all of that work appeared in the final document. But lots of other places where there were understandings reached, we couldn’t reduce them to writing, so that means there’s still some work to do, but there was a great deal of work done that is beyond what was seen in the final document that will be the place that we will begin when we return to our conversations," Pompeo said after flying to Seoul from Singapore.
While President Trump has said he would temporarily suspend live military drills between the US and South Korea (a declaration that reportedly was news to the US military and its partners in Japan and the South), Pompeo clarified that the drills would resume if the North stops negotiating in good faith.
Trump "made very clear" that the condition for the freeze was that good-faith talks continue. He says if the U.S. concludes they no longer are in good faith, the freeze "will no longer be in effect."
Pompeo added that conversations with North Korea should continue next week, though he couldn't say for sure what the exact timing would be.
"I don’t know exactly what the timing will be for our next conversation with the North Koreans. I would anticipate it will be fairly quickly after we return to our home countries."
"I don’t know exactly what form that will take, but I’m very confident that by some time in the next week or so we will begin the engagement."
While Trump headed back to the US, Pompeo traveled to Seoul on Wednesday to brief South Korean officials on developments from the summit.