US seeks to assuage Asian allies
SEOUL, South Korea — The United States and its Asian allies worked Thursday to paper over any semblance of disagreement over President Donald Trump’s concession to Kim Jong Un that the US would halt military exercises with South Korea, with Trump’s top diplomat insisting the president hadn’t backed down from his firm line on North Korea’s nukes.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meeting with top South Korean and Japanese diplomats, put a more sober spin on several moves by Trump after his summit with Kim that had fueled unease from Washington to Tokyo and Seoul. He said Trump’s curious claim that the North’s nuclear threat was over was issued with “eyes wide open,” and brushed off a North Korean state-run media report suggesting Trump would grant concessions even before Pyongyang fully rids itself of nuclear weapons.
“We’re going to get denuclearization,” Pompeo said in the South Korean capital. “Only then will there be relief from the sanctions.”
On the joint US-South Korea drills that Trump — after meeting Kim — said would be terminated, Pompeo emphasized a key caveat: If the mercurial North Korean leader stops negotiating in good faith, the “war games” will be back on.
The words of reassurance from Pompeo came as diplomacy continued at an intense pace in the days after Tuesday’s summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting American president and North Korea’s leader in six decades of hostility. In the village of Panmunjom along the North-South border, the rival Koreas on Thursday held the first high-level military talks since 2007, focused on reducing tensions across their heavily fortified border.
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