U.S. expects North Korea to live up to moratorium on nuclear tests

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Carolyn Kaster / AP

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department, Friday, March 15, 2019 in Washington.

Fri, Mar 15, 2019 (8:25 a.m.)

WASHINGTON — Amid new tension between the two countries, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the U.S. expects North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to live up to his promise to President Donald Trump to continue his moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests.

"In Hanoi, on multiple occasions, he spoke directly to the president and made a commitment that he would not resume nuclear testing nor would he resume missile testing," Pompeo said. "So that's Chairman Kim's word. We have every expectation he will live up to that commitment."

A senior North Korean official said earlier Friday in Pyongyang that Kim will soon decide if he wants to continue diplomatic talks and whether to continue to refrain from doing missile launches and nuclear tests.

Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui also alleged that Pompeo and Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, created an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust at last month's nuclear summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, Pompeo and Bolton expressed uncompromising demands of the North Koreans.

"On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission said, 'For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?'" she said. "I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger. We have neither the intention to compromise with the U.S. in any form nor much less the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation."

At the White House, Bolton disputed the allegation, saying, "I think that's inaccurate. The president is our decision-maker." Bolton said he's seen the vice foreign minister's statement and had discussed the allegations with his South Korean counterpart.

At the State Department, Pompeo also denied it. "They are wrong about that. I was there." He said he had been called "gangster-like" by the North Koreans before, but had still managed to have professional discussions with them.

The vice foreign minister said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its "political calculation." Even so, she said personal relations between the two leaders are still good "and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful."

She said it was entirely up to Kim whether to continue the launch and test moratorium, and said she expects he will "clarify his position" within a short period of time.

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