Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Thursday that China will maintain sanctions against North Korea “until such time as denuclearization is, in fact, complete.”
Pompeo said he also spoke with the Japanese and South Korean governments on Thursday, and they are equally committed to keeping full sanctions pressure against North Korea until the North’s nuclear weapons program has been dismantled.
The secretary thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping “for his role in helping bring North Korea to the negotiating table and for the continued support as we work to achieve the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.”
The New York Times noted that China has previously indicated that sanctions relief should be quickly offered to North Korea simply for agreeing to negotiations, and Wang declined to answer a direct question at the press conference about whether this is still Beijing’s position.
“We think we should address North Korea’s security interest concerns, which is to establish a peace mechanism for the Korean peninsula,” Wang said noncommittally. “I think that China and the US, as well as North Korea and other parties, would agree that our ultimate goal is the same.”
Pompeo actually stepped in and took over the question after Wang sidestepped the matter of sanctions relief:
State Councilor Wang and I had a good, constructive discussion on these very topics. With respect to the pace at which the denuclearization will take place, I think we both agreed that we need to do it in as timely a fashion as is possible to achieve the outcome and that the security assurances that we’ve talked about are provided at times that are appropriate.
We also talked at some length about the sanctions. China has reaffirmed its commitment to honoring the UN Security Council resolutions. Those have mechanisms for relief contained in them, and we agreed that at the appropriate time that those would be considered. But we have made very clear that the sanctions and the economic relief that North Korea will receive will only happen after the full denuclearization, the complete denuclearization, of North Korea.
Pompeo gave assurances that the United States has a “reasonable understanding” of the extent of North Korea’s nuclear program, adding that it’s “incredibly important” to upgrade that intel to a “full understanding” as soon as possible.
As part of the efforts that will be undertaken in the week and weeks ahead, we will work with the North Koreans to come to have a fuller understanding of that so that we can begin to execute together the commitments that President Trump and Chairman Kim made. They made real commitments to denuclearize, each of them, and President Trump made a commitment that he would provide security assurances that were commensurate with that.
“Those are firm commitments that the two leaders made and an understanding that the program is a piece of what will ultimately lead to our capacity to verify the full and complete denuclearization has actually taken place,” he said.