WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought Wednesday to mitigate lawmakers' concerns that President Donald Trump's diplomatic venture with North Korea is faltering, stressing that the U.S. had made "zero concessions" to the regime and would continue to hold firm until Pyongyang takes "credible steps" toward denuclearization.
"We have made zero concessions to Chairman Kim [Jong Un] to date, and we have no intention of doing so," Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, during his first congressional grilling as secretary of state.
Pompeo's trip to Capitol Hill comes as the White House is signaling doubts about its own timeline for talks with North Korea to scale back its nuclear ambitions in exchange for mitigation of sanctions. On Tuesday, Trump said there was a "substantial chance" the summit would be canceled after it emerged that North Korean officials skipped a planning meeting in Singapore last week.
Pompeo told lawmakers Wednesday that plans were in place to hold the historic meeting June 12 in Singapore, though he added: "that decision will ultimately be up to Chairman Kim."
Trump told reporters Wednesday that "we will know next week about Singapore."
Today, however, a top North Korean official said recent comments by Vice President Mike Pence were "stupid" and "ignorant" and warned that the country is willing to pull out of the summit. Pence told Fox News on Monday that North Korea could end up like Libya if Kim failed to make a deal.
"Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States," said Choe Son Hui, vice minister of foreign affairs.
North Korea has insisted it won't give up its nuclear weapons program without major concessions from the U.S. Presenting the latest formulation of U.S. policy, Pompeo told the House panel Wednesday that the administration's "posture will not change until we see credible steps taken toward the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."
Pompeo didn't define what "credible steps" by North Korea might look like, giving the administration leeway to make that decision later.
The U.S. wants a "rapid" process in which North Korea's abandonment of its nuclear program is "total and complete, that won't be extended over time," Pompeo said of the agenda for the planned summit. "If we can get the two to agree that that's the end state we're working for, we will have a good day."
Amid the uncertainty, a White House team is headed to Singapore this weekend to work on logistics for the trip. White House spokesman Raj Shah said the effort would be led by Joe Hagin, deputy chief of staff for operations.
Also, the U.N. Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea has cleared the way for all members of Kim's delegation to travel to Singapore for the Trump meeting -- even if they are on the U.N. sanctions blacklist, according to diplomats at the world body who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process was private.
The United Nations' move also allows all delegation members to take home luxury goods whose import to North Korea is banned by the council. Kim himself is not on the sanctions blacklist, which bans travel and requires all countries to freeze North Korean assets.
If the Singapore summit went ahead, it would be first meeting between a U.S. and a North Korean leader during more than six decades of hostility, and it would come just months after the North's rapid progress toward attaining a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America fueled fears of war.
But the North unexpectedly pulled out of planned peace talks with South Korea last week, objecting to U.S.-South Korean military exercises, and also threatened to abandon the planned Trump-Kim meeting, accusing the United States of a "one-sided demand" that it give up its nuclear weapons.
North Korea took particular offense at comments by Trump's hawkish national security adviser John Bolton that the U.S. was looking to the example of Libya, which relinquished its nuclear program in the early 2000s in exchange for sanctions relief. Libya's longtime autocratic leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed several years later after a Western-backed military intervention.
Pompeo said Wednesday that Bolton's comments were alluding to the failure of past disarmament deals with North Korea "where in exchange for act 'X' the United States sends a check across the transom," Pompeo said. "It is indeed not our model."
Separately Wednesday, the Pentagon said it has withdrawn an invitation for China to participate in a multinational naval exercise the United States is hosting this summer, a sign of fresh tension between Pacific powers.
Trump said Tuesday that he suspected the North's recent talk of scrapping the summit could reflect influence from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently met with Kim.
Washington also is engaged in a trade dispute with China over U.S. complaints about market access and technology policy.
In his testimony, Pompeo assumed a hard line on resuming talks with Iran, promising to "apply unprecedented financial pressure" and suggesting that economic sanctions are just one of several measures the United States will use against the government in Tehran.
To achieve a new nuclear deal, he added, Iran "simply needs to change its behavior."
The hearing turned combative as Democrats challenged Pompeo for presenting Congress with a budget for the State Department that maintains deep cuts to the diplomatic and development activities of the department -- a budget that the panel's top Democrat, Eliot Engel of New York, called "insulting" and predicted that Congress would reject.
Pompeo told lawmakers that he stood behind the administration's $39.3 billion request for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development despite the fact that Congress roundly rejected a similar slash to the State Department coffers last year.
"I will ensure that the State Department has every dollar it needs to achieve its mission around the world ... and not one dollar more," Pompeo told lawmakers.
The comment stands in sharp contrast to the stance Pompeo took during his confirmation hearing last month, when he told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would "take the extra dollar" if Congress offered him more money for the State Department.
Pompeo had indicated to lawmakers that he would attempt to revive the State Department after many accused his predecessor Rex Tillerson of starving it through budget cuts and hiring freezes. Pompeo said Wednesday that "the freeze is no longer" and hinted that the administration would soon have nominees to announce to fulfill several lingering vacancies.
"I'm looking forward to getting the whole team built back," Pompeo said.
But lawmakers expressed alarm that Pompeo doubled down on defending budget cuts almost as draconian as the ones the administration had proposed under Tillerson.
"[Tillerson] said almost exactly the same thing that you said," Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., told Pompeo. "I'm worried about that aspect of it."
Pompeo also struck a tone similar to Trump when it came to NATO and Europe, echoing Trump's posture toward U.S. allies by saying it was "time for other nations, especially those with high GDP, to assume greater responsibilities and devote greater resources toward our common objectives."
"We expect good help, good financial support from our partners and allies," Pompeo said.
Pompeo had particularly harsh words for NATO member Turkey, which has come under fire for making alliances, including signing arms deals, with Russia and Iran.
"We need them to be a NATO partner ... we need their behavior to reflect the objectives of NATO," said Pompeo, who met last month with his Turkish counterpart to express frustration with Ankara's decision to purchase a Russian surface-to-air missile system that is not compatible with NATO's defenses.
Pompeo said Turkey needs to participate in "NATO in a way where their actions are consistent" with the alliance's values, "and not take actions that undermine its efforts."
Pompeo returns to Capitol Hill today to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That panel's chairman, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., has said the hearing will also function as a chance to hear the administration's position on new congressional efforts to pass a fresh authorization for the use of military force against extremist groups.
Information for this article was contributed by Karoun Demirjian and John Hudson of The Washington Post; by Nick Wadhams of Bloomberg News; and by Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Matthew Pennington, Catherine Lucey and Edith M. Lederer of The Associated Press.
A Section on 05/24/2018
Print Headline: Nothing for N. Korea till it starts eliminating nukes, Pompeo says