US Maintains ‘Maximum Pressure’ on North Korea Ahead of Possible Summit

The U.S. national security adviser said Monday that Washington is “determined” to keep up its policy of maximum pressure on North Korea aimed at its denuclearization.

General H.R. McMaster was in New York to brief ambassadors of the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, as well as Japan and South Korea. He told reporters afterward that the administration’s approach, coupled with strong international sanctions, is yielding progress.

“President [Donald] Trump asked me also to thank the security council for their unity and resolve that has us now to a point where we may be able to pursue a diplomatic solution to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” McMaster said. “So, we are determined to pursue that course.”

McMaster said he briefed diplomats on the U.S. intention to keep up the pressure campaign.

“We all agreed that we are optimistic about this opportunity, but we are determined to keep up the campaign of maximum pressure, till we see words matched with deeds and real progress toward denuclearization,” McMaster said.

Pyongyang silent

The U.S. said earlier Monday that it has yet to hear back from North Korea since Trump agreed to meet in person with Pyongyang’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong Un. McMaster did not respond to reporters’ questions on that.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a visit to Nigeria, said the U.S. expects to “hear something directly” from North Korea. He appeared unconcerned that there has been no immediate public response to Kim’s invitation for a face-to-face meeting of the two leaders.

“As you know, it’s a very recent development,” Tillerson said. “There will be several steps … necessary to agree on location, agree on the scope of those discussions. It’s very early stages. So, I know those are all questions that people are anxious to have answers to. I would say just remain patient, and we’ll see what happens.”

He declined to float ideas for where the summit might occur, saying, “I think it’s going to be very important that those kinds of conversations are held quietly through the two parties.”

South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong praised China as having played a role in helping push North Korea toward new denuclearization talks.

“Our president, Moon Jae-in, and the [South Korean] government believe that various advances toward achieving the goal of peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula were made with active support and contribution from President Xi Jinping and the Chinese government,” Chung said, as he met with China’s top foreign policy adviser, Yang Jiechi.

Yang reiterated China’s position that it wants to see the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and to solve problems through dialogue.

No U.S. concessions

U.S. officials said Sunday they would not make any concessions to North Korea ahead of the summit.

“Make no mistake about it — while these negotiations are going on, there will be no concessions made,” Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday.

Pompeo said the North Korean ruler must “continue to allow us to perform our military-necessary exercises” with South Korea, “and then he’s got to make sure that he leaves on the table that discussion for denuclearization” of his military.

Tufts University Korean Studies assistant professor Sung Yoon Lee told VOA that Kim has tricked the world into believing he has offered concessions.

“We know that nuclear and ballistic missile tests are prohibited under more than 10 U.N. Security Council resolutions, so the mere utterance of abstinence from illicit, forbidden activities is no concession at all,” he said.

VOA’s Ken Bredemeier and Chris Hannas contributed to this report.

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