US says N Korea nuclear freeze won't be end of process

July 10, 2019 09:30
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as they meet at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, on June 30. Photo: Reuters

The United States would hope to see a freeze in the North Korean nuclear program as the start of a process of denuclearization, not the end of it, Washington said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

“(A) freeze, you know, that would never be the resolution of a process. That would never be the end of a process,” a State Department spokeswoman was quoted as saying at a regular news briefing.

“That would (be) something that we would certainly hope to see at the beginning. But I don’t think that the administration has ever characterized a freeze as being the end goal. That would be at the beginning of the process.”

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had a surprise meeting at the end of June in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas and agreed to resume a working-level dialogue, stalled since a failed summit in Vietnam in February.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the talks would likely happen “sometime in July ... probably in the next two or three weeks.”

The Trump administration has dismissed a New York Times report that said an idea was taking shape among US officials to seek to negotiate a nuclear freeze by North Korea, rather than its complete denuclearization, thereby tacitly accepting it as a nuclear state.

North Korea has frozen nuclear bomb and missile testing since 2017, but US officials believe it has expanded its arsenal by continuing to produce bomb fuel and missiles. They are keen to see a freeze in this production too.

Washington’s goal remains the complete elimination of all of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Tuesday.

US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, will meet his South Korean counterpart during a visit to Europe this week to discuss ways to achieve this, she said.

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