U.S. President Donald Trump has directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to delay a planned trip to North Korea, citing insufficient progress on denuclearization.
“I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Trump tweeted on Friday, Aug. 24, about two months after his June meeting with the North’s Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
Trump placed some blame on China for the lack of progress with North Korea and suggested that talks with Pyongyang, led so far by Pompeo, could be on hold until after Washington resolved its bitter trade dispute with Beijing.
“Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved,” Trump tweeted on Friday.
“Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions, which are in place),” Trump said in a tweet.
…Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved. In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2018
China ‘May be Exerting Negative Pressure’ on North Korea
It was back in July that Trump first suggested Beijing may be using its pull with North Korea to undermine U.S. diplomatic efforts out of revenge for Washington’s tariffs.
At the time North Korea issued a sour media statement about its talks with Pompeo on the heels of his two-day visit to Pyongyang.
In a July 7 statement by an unnamed spokesman, North Korea said that Washington’s attitude and stance were “regrettable” and that the United States “came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization.”
Pompeo then dismissed the biting statement, telling reporters in Tokyo on July 8 that he had “good faith, productive” conversations with his counterparts.
A day later Trump reminded Kim about the agreement signed in Singapore last month.
“I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!”
I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2018
A day prior to Trump’s message, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he believes that China is behind North Korea’s latest shift in tone.
“I see China’s hands all over this. We’re in a fight with China,” Graham told “Fox News Sunday.”
“If I were President Trump, I would not let China use North Korea to back me off of the trade dispute. We’ve got more bullets than they do when it comes to trade.”
The United States depends on China to enforce crippling sanctions against North Korea.
Most traded goods enter North Korea through the Chinese border. Trump had previously thanked Chinese leader Xi Jinping for tightening the border, but has recently suggested that China may have relaxed its control of the boundary.
South Korea Expects ‘Constructive Role’ From China
Meanwhile, while describing the postponement of Pompeo’s trip as a setback, South Korea’s foreign ministry said it expects China to serve a “constructive role” in international efforts to solve the nuclear crisis.
“It’s most important to maintain a long-term view while maintaining a momentum for dialogue and concentrate diplomatic efforts to faithfully implement the agreements from the summits between South Korea and North Korea and between North Korea and the United States, instead of attaching meaning to each change in the situation,” the ministry said in a statement.
“While we consider the delay of the visit to North Korea as unfortunate, we believe it’s most important for the North Korea-U.S. dialogue including Secretary Pompeo’s visits to North Korea to contribute to substantial progress in complete denuclearization and the establishment of a permanent peace regime in the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said.
Complete and Verifiable Denuclearization
Pompeo and Trump have both promised Kim Jong Un a prosperous future for North Korea should he abandon nuclear weapons.
The United States is seeking complete, irreversible, and verifiable denuclearization. But until this goal is achieved, Washington is committed to maintaining crippling sanctions on the communist regime.
Trump and Kim met in person during a historic summit in Singapore in June. The two leaders signed a joint statement agreeing to work toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, a new era for relations between Washington and Pyongyang, and the complete denuclearization of North Korea.
Kim made a verbal promise to destroy a missile engine testing site and Trump promised to suspend war games with South Korea.
Progress on denuclearization appears to have stalled, however, as U.S. officials have been trying without success to persuade North Korea to detail the extent of its nuclear arsenal.
Trump’s decision to postpone Pompeo’s visit came just days after the U.N. nuclear watchdog reported it had not found any indication that North Korea had stopped its nuclear activities.
Some analysts suggest Trump’s move may be a negotiating ploy.
In May, Trump announced he was calling off his planned summit with Kim, citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility,” reversing his position eight days later after a North Korean change of attitude.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.