(ATTN: UPDATES with more comments in paras 2-13, 21-22 )
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the U.S. has not dropped the aim of denuclearizing North Korea in a "complete, verifiable and irreversible" manner and that the North's leader Kim Jong-un understands he must denuclearize "quickly."
Speaking after talks with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts about a summit between Kim and President Donald Trump, Pompeo stressed that there would be no sanctions relief for Pyongyang before its denuclearization.
"The sequence will be different this time," Pompeo said during a joint press conference.
The U.S. and its key Asian allies remain "committed to achieving the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) of North Korea," he said.
He recalled President Trump's vision for a "strong, secure and prosperous North Korea," saying, "We are eager to see them take the next steps to achieve it, because the United States is ready for a new chapter in our history."
His remarks came as some media and experts have found fault with Trump's Singapore summit accord with Kim, which has no clear mention of Washington's stated goal of CVID.
The accord just stipulates that the communist nation will "work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." The two sides agreed to establish "new relations" to end seven decades of hostility dating back to the 1950-53 Korean War.
In its own summary of the summit results, the North cited a compromise on an incremental approach.
The leaders agreed that "it's important to abide by the principle of a step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
Trump said he had skipped the CVID jargon in the joint statement due to time constraints and Pompeo told reporters the word "complete" encompasses the notion of verification.
Pompeo, a former CIA director, said Kim appears to understand the need for a quick process.
"We believe that Chairman Kim Jong-un understands the urgency of the timing of completing this denuclearization and understands we must do this quickly," he said, "And the sanctions relief cannot take place until such time as we have demonstrated that North Korea has been completely denuclearized."
And, he said, "verification is central" to reshaping the bilateral relationship, as he is expected to open follow-up negotiations with a senior North Korean official as early as next week.
The summit deal, he emphasized, will be implemented with conditions attached and "eyes open."
He emphasized that trilateral cooperation among the three regional powers is "crucial to the effectiveness" of the process, which is "not an easy one."
South Korea's top diplomat, Kang Kyung-hwa, described the Singapore event, an unprecedented bilateral summit between the Korean War war foes, as a "historic turning point," saying it marks the first time that the "highest authorities of the North Korea promised to a 'sitting' U.S. president to work towards complete denuclearization."
Kang dismissed concerns about a possible crack in the Seoul-Washington alliance over Pyongyang.
It's "as robust as ever" and the South expects "no daylight" in cooperation with the U.S. towards the denuclearization of the peninsula and peace.
On Trump's talk of suspending major combined military drills between the allies, which he calls "expensive and provocative war games," the minister said it's an issue to be decided through consultations between their defense authorities.
Keen attention is being paid to whether they will stage the Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) joint exercise in August as scheduled.
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the U.S. Forces Korea should continue to play a key role in regional deterrence and stability.
Regarding the possibility of North Korea-Japan talks, he said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is willing to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by the North through "various channels and routes."
"If the leaders meet, we need to have a summit meeting that leads to a resolution of the issue and we will coordinate going forward.
Ahead of the trilateral meeting, meanwhile, Pompeo paid a courtesy call on President Moon Jae-in, who is credited with having played a key role in creating the current dialogue mood.
"I think what's tremendously valuable is that (the Singapore summit) has made people of the world, including those in the U.S., Japan and Korea, escape the threat of war, nuclear weapons and long-range missiles," Moon was quoted as telling Pompeo.
The top U.S. diplomat is scheduled to visit Beijing later in the day for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
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