The United States believes it has North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s commitment to completely dismantle his country’s nuclear weapons, while denuclearisation would definitely be verified, a senior US security official said on Monday.
Washington would accept nothing less than Pyongyang’s fully complying with the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, according to the deputy assistant to the president and senior director for Asia at the White House, Matt Pottinger.
Such a commitment from the North Korean side was convincing as President Donald Trump had spoken one-on-one with Kim during the historical summit in Singapore last week, he said.
“The leader [Kim] is the person in that system who would take the decision, he is sitting at the top of the system. He sets the tone, the policy and strategy for North Korea,” said Pottinger, who was at the historic Singapore summit.
Shortly after the summit, US and North Korean officials met to begin the implementation of the denuclearisation process, he said.
“We will see in the weeks and months ahead how that goes. Our Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a mandate from the US President to begin immediately the challenge of implementing a road map to denuclearise North Korea,” he added.
The US believes that the process to free North Korea from nuclear weapons must be verified. “There is no such thing as unverified denuclearisation. As far as President Trump is concerned, we have to verify, we have to have inspectors on the ground, and we really need the full cooperation of North Korea,” Pottinger stressed.
The senior US official was speaking in Bangkok on Monday during his swing through Southeast Asian nations after the Singapore summit, and is being undertaken in the context of implementation of the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
The trip also took him to Myanmar over the weekend, and will see him in Malaysia on Tuesday.
Indo-Pacific strategy is the main pillar of the national security strategy of the Trump administration in championing the principle of realism in international relations, the president’s deputy assistant said.
“A freer Indo-Pacific is for the nations to be free from coercion and have the freedom to protect their territory and integrity. Nations should also have freedom at sea and in the air,” Pottinger said.
“We are now in the stage of mapping out details for implementing the Indo-Pacific strategic plan. One key component for the strategy is deepening US alliances and partnerships. Asean centrality is still important to the strategy and American interests,” he added.
Meanwhile, Pottinger said that while in Myanmar, he had discussed the ongoing Rohingya crisis with leaders and senior officials of the country.
The US has been encouraged by the steps taken by Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to increase access to Rakhine state, he pointed out.
“We are encouraged by the Myanmar government for finding a way for Rakhine Muslims to return safely and with dignity,” he said, referring to the repatriation of thousands of refugees to Myanmar’s strife-torn state.
Some 700,000 Rohingya had fled Rakhine since August last year after a crackdown against ethnic insurgents that also prompted a “clearance operation” conducted by the Myanmar military to force the group out.
The refugees faced atrocities of torture, murder, gang-rape and massacre while fleeing from their homes to the Bangladesh border.
Asked whether the issue of ethnic cleansing was discussed with Myanmar leaders, the US official simply said: “I had a very frank and constructive conversation with all officials. I also met journalists there, young entrepreneurs, members of parliament. We have seen some promising side [to the issue] now, progress in eradicating the suffering resulting from the catastrophe.”