U.S. calls for keeping up pressure on North Korea ahead of summit

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday that in the run-up to President Donald Trump’s planned summit with North Korea’s leader countries should continue to put financial and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang to surrender its banned nuclear weapons.

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U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said that the U.S. delegation would be looking for support at a two-week conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which opens next Monday in Geneva. Pyongyang announced its withdrawal in 2003 from the landmark pact prohibiting the spread of atomic weapons.

“The United States remains committed to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea,” Wood told a news conference.

“In terms of the pressure campaign, the things we have been very interested in are maintaining the pressure, meaning enforcing sanctions, ensuring that the North is not able to get access to funds that help further its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes,” he added.

That “maximum” pressure would continue until Pyongyang takes steps that clearly indicate it is “serious about getting rid of its nuclear weapons programme” and takes “concrete steps”, he said, adding: “But we’ve got a long way to go”.

China, the main ally of North Korea, has played a “constructive role with regard to denuclearisation”, he said.

Trump said on Wednesday he hoped an unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be successful after a recent visit to Pyongyang by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, but warned he would call it off if he did not think it would produce results.

“The President is a sharp deal-maker, people should not under-estimate him ... These are high-stakes discussions, assuming they take place,” Wood said.

“The President will be going into this meeting with his eyes wide open, the U.S. is not naive about the situation. But it is an opportunity right now and hopefully this summit will lead to some success,” he added.

Wood declined to reveal details of the U.S. strategy for getting North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons, but noted that Trump had made clear he would not pursue a “traditional process...where you get this gradual kind of approach that the North eventually goes back on.”

“His abilities are going to be very important. But like anything else, it takes two to tango, and the North has to be willing to take steps that the North has said itself it was willing to take,” Wood said.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Tom Miles and Matthew Mpoke Bigg