North Korean Sanctions Will Not Be Lifted Until Nuclear Risks Are ‘Substantially Reduced,’ Pompeo Says

February 21, 2019, 7:27 PM UTC

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said economic sanctions would not be lifted until the threat of nuclear warfare from North Korea is at least significantly reduced, seemingly leaving open the possibility of sanctions relief prior to complete denuclearization.

“The American people should know we have the toughest economic sanctions that have ever been placed on North Korea and we won’t release that pressure until such time as we’re confident we’ve substantially reduced that risk,” Pompeo said Thursday, speaking on NBC’s Today show.

Pompeo reaffirmed the United States’ end goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, noting progress has been made in that North Korea has not tested missiles in more than a year. Still, the country’s nuclear threat remains.

President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last June for their first summit. Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim for a second summit in Vietnam on February 27. Pompeo was hesitant to give specifics on negotiations, but there have reportedly been discussions around using the summit to declare an official end to the Korean War. Fighting ceased with an armistice in July 1953, but a peace treaty has yet to be drawn up, meaning the war is technically ongoing.

When asked if there could be any concessions on the goal of a complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea, Pompeo said ,”No, that’s what we need to get for the American people.”

“To keep the American people safe,” he continued, “we have to reduce the threat from a nuclear-armed North Korea and then, in turn, we can work on peace and security on the peninsula and a brighter future for the North Korean people.”