June 27, 2018 / 7:28 PM / 5 months ago

North Korea understands U.S. on 'complete denuclearization': Pompeo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he was confident that North Korea understood the scope of the U.S. desire for complete denuclearization as the two countries negotiate after President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We’ve been pretty unambiguous in our conversations about what we mean when we say complete denuclearization,” Pompeo told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on funding for the State Department.

Trump has drawn some criticism from national security analysts for an agreement that emerged from his June 12 summit with Kim that had few details on how Pyongyang would surrender its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Pompeo said he would be leading the ongoing talks with Pyongyang, but declined to discuss details. “They’re watching this hearing,” he said.

Although Trump said last week that North Korea was in the process of returning the remains of U.S. troops missing from the 1950-1953 Korean War [nL1N1TN169], Pompeo said none had yet been handed over to the United States. He said he was optimistic the United States would begin receiving remains “in the not-too-distant future.”

Pompeo also said he had seen “a modest amount” of backsliding from China on enforcing sanctions on North Korea.

“It is the set case that we have observed China not enforcing control over their cross-border areas as vigorously as they were six or 12 months ago,” he said, but said that was in comparison to what had been an all-time high.

Pompeo was also questioned about Trump’s saying after the summit with Kim that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, an assertion questioned by analysts and mocked by Democrats.

Pompeo defended the statement, saying Trump had reduced the threat, by reducing tensions. “I think his point was a fair one. For the moment, we have reduced risk,” Pompeo told the subcommittee.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Leslie Adler

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