WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. intends to maintain military pressure on North Korea to ensure America engages the Kim Jong-un regime from a “position of strength” to achieve significant steps towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a top Pentagon official indicated on Tuesday.
Echoing the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Randall Schriver, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, made those assertions in written testimony prepared for a hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific Policy.
The remarks from the U.S. officials came as state-owned media in North Korea threatened to cancel American President Donald Trump’s June 12 nuclear summit with Kim as a response to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
Both Schriver and U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty stressed that America would keep up military pressure against North Korea until the United States achieves significant steps towards the “complete” denuclearization.
The top Pentagon official told lawmakers on Tuesday:
In Northeast Asia, the dynamic security environment continues to underscore the importance of our robust alliance and partner relationships, in particular given the immediate challenge posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
Although recent diplomatic developments are encouraging, the Department of Defense [DOD] continues to work closely with our allies and partners to maintain and improve our readiness to defend against potential threats, while ensuring that our diplomats engage from a position of strength to achieve the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization and the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile programs.
According to the Straits Times, the American ambassador to Japan made similar remarks, telling a Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting in Tokyo:
From the standpoint of U.S. leadership – President Trump, Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo, National Security Advisor [John] Bolton – everybody has been very consistent that the pressure is going to stay in place.
We are not talking about writing blank cheques that can go towards some other nefarious activity. We are talking about real know-how that can lead to progress for the North Korean people.
At the same event, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad reportedly dismissed the notion of American military withdrawal from South Korea even if the North were to agree to a complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear weapons.
The United States is offering “an opportunity for North Korea to join the rest of the world – electricity, food, better job opportunities,” he declared, the Straits Times reports.
Chung-in Moon, a foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, reportedly noted that an “action-for-action” approach to denuclearization would be preferred.
If North Korean strikes a “big deal” with the United States, he explained, America “should ask the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to adopt a resolution to immediately relax or eliminate the sanctions on North Korea. But of course, it has to be action for action.”
Col. Rob Manning, a DOD spokesman, defended America’s recent military drill with South Korea, noting that the “defensive exercises are part of the ROK [Republic of Korea]-U.S. Alliance’s routine, annual training program to maintain a foundation of military readiness.”
“The purpose of the training is to enhance the ROK-U.S. Alliance’s ability to defend the ROK and enhance interoperability and readiness,” he added.
The U.S. State Department refuted reports that North Korea had threatened to cancel the looming meeting between Trump and Kim over the U.S.-Soth Korea military exercises.
Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for State, noted, “We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month.”