(ATTN: UPDATES, RECASTS with Pompeo's remarks at university event in paras 1-8; CHANGES headline)
WASHINGTON, April 15 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that he prays for the day sanctions can be lifted from North Korea after the complete and verified dismantlement of its nuclear weapons program.
Pompeo appeared to reaffirm the U.S. position that sanctions on North Korea will remain in place as long as the regime holds on to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"I would love nothing more than to lift the sanctions on North Korea. I truly would," he said during an event at Texas A&M University. "Because it would mean we were successful. It would mean that North Korea no longer had a nuclear weapons program or a weapons of mass destruction program. It would mean we'd had the opportunity to verify that that was the case, so we knew we weren't taking anyone's word for that. It would be a glorious thing."
In return for denuclearization, President Donald Trump has talked about offering a brighter future for the North Koreans, Pompeo said, adding that "We desperately want that."
He admitted that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has yet to make a strategic shift away from viewing the nuclear program as the only defense mechanism and instead as what threatens the nation the most.
"We're not home yet, but I pray that one day that President Trump gets to announce that we're removing the sanctions regime from North Korea," Pompeo said.
In earlier remarks to reporters in Dallas, Texas, Pompeo also voiced hope for the swift dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program, even before the end of the year.
He said he had seen Kim's statement last week regarding his willingness to hold a third summit with Trump if Washington came with the "right attitude" and "right method."
"I appreciate that," Pompeo said of Kim's speech to the North's parliament. "There are lots of conversations taking place ... President Trump is determined to move forward diplomatically, right. This is the outcome we're looking for: Chairman Kim made a promise in June of last year in Singapore. He made a commitment to denuclearize. He's made that same commitment to me now a handful of times in person. We collectively need to see that outcome move forward."
Trump and Kim agreed at their first summit in Singapore last June to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees for Pyongyang.
In February, they held a second summit in Vietnam, but failed to produce any agreement. The breakdown was attributed to a gap between U.S. demands for complete denuclearization and North Korean demands for significant sanctions relief.
Pompeo said his teams are working with the North Koreans to "chart a path forward so that we can get there."
"He said he wanted it done by the end of the year," the secretary said, referring to Kim. "I'd love to see that done sooner."
The timeline appeared to be a reference to the North Korean leader's remark that he would wait until the end of the year for the U.S. to make a courageous decision on their negotiations.
In his speech, Kim also said that his relationship with Trump remains good.
Trump responded in a tweet Saturday that, for their relationship, "perhaps the term excellent would be even more accurate."
He added that "a third Summit would be good in that we fully understand where we each stand."
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