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Pompeo Talks North Korea Denuclearization In Singapore


The secretary of state is back in Singapore. It's been nearly two months since he was there with President Trump for the big summit with Kim Jong Un. And as - the secretary details that there has not been much progress on thorny issues in the region and Russia is violating international sanctions. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Beijing. Anthony, thanks so much for being with us.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: My pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: First, the basics - Secretary Pompeo's attending a meeting about - of about a dozen Asian nations. We know the president likes to negotiate one on one. So what is the multilateral message in Singapore?

KUHN: So Pompeo was at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. One of his main messages to them is that the U.S. is not retreating from the region or turning in on itself. And he underlined this by announcing $300 million in new U.S. government funding for security cooperation in the region and another roughly $100 million for economic and infrastructure projects. Now, observers were quick to note that that's really not very much money compared to China's investments in the region. And it's also a pretty small commitment compared to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, which the Trump administration pulled out of in its early days. The other main message to Asian governments there was to just keep on enforcing those sanctions against North Korea until they give up their nuclear weapons.

SIMON: The secretary says that Russia's violating U.N. sanctions regarding North Korea and that Pyongyang is going back in its commitment to denuclearize, which says essentially the - you know, that summit a few weeks ago we hailed did nothing.

KUHN: Or at least there's been a lot of backsliding. There have been these reports coming out that Russia is reportedly doing business with North Korea in violation of the sanctions and also that North Korea continues to crank out more fuel for atomic bombs and more missiles. But, you know, the basic problem is there's just no apparent game plan or a timetable for denuclearization in North Korea. Basically, the U.S. is saying, you've got to make the first move. You give up your nukes. And North Korea's saying, no, you've got to make the first move by giving us some sort of security guarantees.

Now, after Pompeo left this meeting, North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, expressed alarm saying that the U.S. seemed to be backing away from the commitments that President Trump made to Kim Jong Un at the summit in Singapore. He said, you know, we, the North Koreans, are making goodwill gestures, including a ban or a moratorium on testing nukes and missiles. But you, the U.S., haven't responded. You just seemed to be intent on, you know, continuing to sanction us. So basically, both sides seemed very mistrustful and concerned that the other is trying to renege on its commitments.

SIMON: Tell us, please, about an exchange of letters in Singapore.

KUHN: Right. So Sung Kim, ambassador to the Philippines - who's been involved in these talks - gave a letter from President Trump to give to Kim Jong Un. We don't know what it said. But it just shows that the two leaders are still in touch on the relationship.

SIMON: OK. NPR's Anthony Kuhn speaking with us from Beijing. Anthony, thanks so much for being with us.

KUHN: You're sure welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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