(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details; ADDS photo)
TOKYO, July 8 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats of South Korea, the United States and Japan agreed Sunday to keep sanctions against North Korea until its full denuclearization tied to verification.
They reaffirmed the shared goal of ridding the North of its nuclear program in a "complete, verifiable and irreversible" way and having a united front in the next steps.
The show of unity among the regional powers came shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's latest negotiations with the communist nation.
Less than 24 hours after his two-day trip to Pyongyang, Pompeo briefed his South Korean and Japanese counterparts -- Kang Kyung-wha and Taro Kono - on the results.
He said there was progress made in his talks with Kim Yong-chol, a top North Korean official, but there's work to be done on a much-awaited timeline for denuclearization.
"Sanctions will remain in place until final, fully verified denuclearization," Pompeo said at a joint press conference with Kang and Kono after a trilateral meeting in Tokyo. "While we are encouraged by the progress of these talks, progress alone does not justify the relaxation of the existing sanctions regime."
The denuclearization of Korea covers not just nuclear bombs but also missiles, he said, adding North Korean officials also understand that.
On the trustworthiness issue, he said, "There will be a verification connected to the complete denuclearization."
It's what President Donald Trump and the North's leader Kim Jong-un agreed to in their Singapore summit last month, he said. He did not elaborate.
He characterized his hourslong talks with the North in Pyongyang last week as constructive and fruitful.
But he failed to meet expectations that he might come back with the North's promise of concrete measures toward denuclearization and the remains of some American troops killed in the 1950-53 Korean War.
Apparently, there was a dispute over Washington's call for speedy and complete denuclearization.
In a statement issued after Pompeo's departure, the North's foreign ministry called it a "gangster-like" demand, saying Washington has ignored the issue of establishing a peace regime.
The secretary refuted Pyongyang's claim.
"If those requests were gangster-like, the world is a gangster, because there was a unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved," he said.
The South Korean minister also pressed the North to abide by the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
She pointed out complete denuclearization means the complete removal of nuclear materials and it's a clearly set goal.
"(We) agreed to maintain the U.N. Security Council sanctions until North Korea's complete denuclearization," she said.
On her government's decision to suspend major combined military drills with the U.S., she said it's aimed at facilitating the denuclearization process.
It has not changed the alliance at all, and Seoul will continue to coordinate closely with Washington and Tokyo, she emphasized.
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