North Korea, US spar over nuclear deal at Singapore forum

North Korea, US spar over nuclear deal at Singapore forum
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the ASEAN Regional Forum Retreat in Singapore August 4, 2018.
PHOTO: Reuters

SINGAPORE - North Korea and the United States on Saturday sparred over an agreement reached at a landmark summit in June for the Asian country to end its nuclear programme, as Washington called for maintaining sanctions pressure against Pyongyang, which in turn said it was alarmed by US intentions.

The discord at a regional forum in Singapore was the latest reminder of the difficulties that have long impaired efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, despite commitments made at an unprecedented summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city state less than two months ago.

"The DPRK stands firm in its determination and commitment for implementing the DPRK-US Joint Statement in a responsible and good-faith manner," North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the ASEAN Regional Forum, using his country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"What is alarming however is the insistent moves manifested within the US to go back to the old, far from its leader's intention," he said.

Ri made the statement after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had left the Singapore conference centre for Indonesia having pressed Southeast Asian nations to maintain sanctions on North Korea until it gives up a nuclear weapons programme that now threatens the United States.

At the June 12 summit, Kim, who is seeking relief from tough sanctions, committed to work towards denuclearisation, but North Korea has offered no details on how it might go about this.

When Trump met Kim: A Singapore story

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    Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un made history Tuesday, becoming the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet and shake hands, as they seek to end a tense decades-old nuclear stand-off.

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    It was a meeting many would have thought unimaginable just months ago.

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    The two men strode toward each other and shared the momentous handshake beneath the white-washed walls of an upscale hotel in neutral Singapore, before sitting down for a half-day of meetings with major ramifications for the world.

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    Prior to the meeting held at Capella Hotel in Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, Trump had said that he would know "within the first minute", whether any agreement would be possible.

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    The watching world is not sure if it's the start of a beautiful, budding "bromance", but here's a look at how the world's most talked-about first date unfolded.

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    Their handshake reportedly lasted for 12 long seconds (though still 7 seconds shorter than his memorable handshake with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe).

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    Trump also reached out to touch the North Korean leader on his right shoulder.

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    According to a body language expert Karen Leong, the first 60 seconds showed both leaders seeking to take charge in their encounter. US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both sought to project a sense of command. "Their handshake seems to be between peers," she said.

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    "Trump seemed to be very aware of this, that he needed to up the stakes and be seen that he is the leader."

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    Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.

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    Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.

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    The US President, who is more than twice Kim's age, then appeared to lead the way to the library where they held a one-on-one meeting, placing his hand on the North Korean leader's counterpart's back.

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    Kim also patted the US president' arm, in an attempt to show control over the encounter, said Leong.

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    The leaders appeared to share a few light-hearted moments as they walked down a corridor to the hotel's library.

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    However, Leong said both found it difficult to conceal their nervousness once they were seated, with Trump displaying a slanted smile, and fidgeting with his hands and Kim leaning and staring at the ground.

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    As they sat down for their one-on-one meeting, the US leader predicted a "terrific relationship" with Kim.

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    Mr Kim then said through a translator: “The way to come to here was not easy.The old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”

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    After their closed door one-on-one talks, the pair continued with explanded bilateral talks with their delegation. Trump was flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton.

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    Sitting across the table from the US team were North Korean leader Kim, Kim Yong-chol, first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s central committee, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Ri Su-yong, Workers’ Party vice chairman on international affairs.

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    Thereafter, the two leaders attended a working lunch with their respective delegations at Capella Hotel.

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    On the lunch menu: Main courses include beef short rib confit, served with potato dauphinois and steamed broccoli; sweet and sour crispy pork and fried rice with an "XO" chilli sauce as well as a Korean dish called "daegu jorim", which is a soy braised cod fish with radish and Asian vegetables.

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    Post-lunch, Kim and Trump then went for a leisurely stroll around the hotel grounds.

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    He also said talks had gone "better than anybody could have expected", and indicated that they were heading for a "signing", but did not divulge any details of the agreement.

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    During their walk, Trump unexpectedly gave Kim a peek into his super limo, nicknamed "The Beast".

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    But they did not get to hop on to go for a joyride, as commentators had hoped.

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    The pair met to sign an agreement, details of which were not revealed during the signing. Trump said: "We're signing a very important document, pretty comprehensive document, and we've had a really great time together, a great relationship... More will be discussed at a press conference soon."

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    When asked what he learnt about Kim, Trump said that he is "a very talented man", and that "he loves his country very much".

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    Mr Trump also described Mr Kim as a "very worthy, very smart negotiator".

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    According to sources after the signing, the two leaders pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy.

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    The signatures of US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said he expected the denuclearization process to start "very, very quickly".

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    Kim places a hand on Trump's back as they leave the room after the signing.

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    After the signing, the pair walked out for another round of photo-taking.

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    Reports say Mr Kim departed Singapore on a chartered Air China flight at 11.20pm and midnight on Tuesday, while Trump left on Air Force One earlier at 6.25pm.

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    At 4pm, Trump held a press conference on the summit outcome and details on the agreement signed.

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    "We signed a joint statement that is an unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of North Korea," he says.

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    The Capella Hotel on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, provided the backdrop for the historic summit.

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    Trump's motorcade arriving at Sentosa on Tuesday (June 12) morning.

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    Setting the stage ready for the handshake that will be seen across the world.

Pompeo suggested on Friday that continued work on weapons programs by North Korea was inconsistent with Kim's commitment to denuclearize. On Saturday, he nevertheless said he was optimistic a North Korean denuclearisation could be achieved although it "would take some time."

Ri said North Korea had made goodwill gestures, including a moratorium on nuclear tests and rocket launches and the dismantling of a nuclear test ground.

"However, the United States, instead of responding to these measures, is raising its voice louder for maintaining the sanctions against the DPRK and showing the attitude to retreat even from declaring the end of the war, a very basic and primary step for providing peace on the Korean peninsula," he said.

On Saturday, Pompeo said Washington took very seriously any relaxation of UN sanctions, calling out Russia for possibly violating a UN resolution by issuing work visas to North Korean workers.

WARNING TO MOSCOW

"I want to remind every nation that has supported these resolutions that this is a serious issue and something that we will discuss with Moscow," he said. "We expect the Russians and all countries to abide by the UN Security Council resolutions and enforce sanctions on North Korea."

Russia has denied a report by the Wall Street Journal that said Moscow was allowing thousands of fresh North Korean laborers into the country and granting them work permits in a potential breach of U.N sanctions.

Russia's ambassador to North Korea also denied Moscow was flouting UN restrictions on oil supplies to North Korea.

According to a confidential UN report seen by Reuters on Friday, North Korea has not stopped nuclear and missile programs in violation of United Nations sanctions.

Although Pompeo has been leading US negotiating efforts with North Korea, he had no formal meeting with Ri in Singapore. However, at a group photo session on Saturday, he walked up to the North Korean and shook hands and exchanged words and smiles.

He told Ri: "We should talk again soon," the State Department said.

"I agree, there are many productive conversations to be had," Ri replied, according to the State Department.

Pompeo later tweeted that it had been "a quick, polite exchange" and there had been the opportunity to deliver a letter for Kim Jong Un from Trump.

US Ambassador Sung Kim handed Ri the letter, which the State Department said was in return for one from Kim to Trump that the White House said was received on Wednesday. The State Department has not said what is in Trump's letter to Kim.

Trump posted a note on Twitter on Thursday thanking Kim for returning the remains of US soldiers from the Korean War and saying he looked forward to seeing Kim again "soon", although the White House said no second meeting was currently planned.

It is not the first time since the summit that North Korea has appeared to offer a more negative impression of the progress of talks with the United States that Washington.

Following a trip to Pyongyang in July, Pompeo spoke of progress, but as soon as he had left the country North Korea accused him of "gangster-like" diplomacy, casting doubts about the future of the discussions.

Even so, Trump has continued to hail progress, emphasizing the halt in bomb and missile tests and North Korea's return of purported American war remains.

A senior State Department official sought to play down Ri's statement, saying it was to be expected.

"Much of the intervention was positive and that's an improvement from the past," the official said. "We're building a relationship with North Korea after years of difficult relations."

Since US talks with North Korea resumed this year, Pompeo has primarily engaged with Kim Yong Chol, a top North Korean party official and former spy agency chief, not Ri.

Pompeo told a Senate committee hearing on July 25 that North Korea was continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs in spite of its denuclearisation pledge.

On Monday, a senior US official said US spy satellites had detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

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