Home/Daniel Larison/What North Korea’s Anti-Pompeo Invective Means

What North Korea’s Anti-Pompeo Invective Means

It appears that North Korea has had just about all the swagger it can stomach:

North Korea’s foreign minister on Friday called U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “poisonous plant of American diplomacy” who hampers efforts to restart nuclear negotiations.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho made the insult to protest Pompeo’s comments in a media interview that Washington will maintain crippling sanctions on North Korea unless it denuclearizes.

This is not the first time that North Korean officials have denounced Pompeo, but it represents another clear rejection of the current U.S. position of trying to compel North Korean disarmament without offering them anything. The full North Korean statement can be read here:

North Korea is being as clear as it can be that it isn’t going to make any concessions without at least some sanctions relief. The North Korean foreign minister’s statement says, “The U.S. is sadly mistaken if it still thinks of standing in confrontation with the DPRK with sanctions, not dropping its confrontational stand.” The administration’s misguided assumption that they can sanction North Korea into submission isn’t just wrong, but it is also sabotaging any chance at productive talks this year. Pompeo’s remarks about maintaining sanctions until North Korea denuclearizes probably seemed like so much boilerplate to him when he said it, but it set the North Korean government off. Pompeo’s statements show that the U.S. isn’t paying attention to what North Korea has been telling us for the last several months. They are running out of patience, and the Trump administration is running out of time. The problem is that only one side seems to be aware that time is running out.

The specific remarks that angered the North Koreans so much were from a Washington Examinerinterview earlier this week:

We’ve been at the table with them intermittently since then trying to deliver that. The president has come after Chairman Kim three times. Sometimes, I know these things are characterized as failures, but the truth is each time, I think the two leaders have developed deeper understandings of how it is we might achieve this. I still remain hopeful that Chairman Kim is committed to this and sees a path that allows him to execute on this. But in the event that he doesn’t, we’ll continue to keep on the sanctions that are the toughest in all of history and continue to work towards convincing Chairman Kim and the North Korean leaders that the right thing to do is for them to denuclearize. I think he sees it. I think we all need to continue to work at this so that he can find the path to actually execute the commitment that he made in Singapore in June.

Pompeo comes back again and again to the “commitment” Kim supposedly made at Singapore, but Kim didn’t make the commitment that Pompeo always attributes to him. North Korea didn’t agree to denuclearization last year, and it certainly didn’t agree to unilateral disarmament, but Pompeo keeps misleading the American public about this. The North Koreans know they didn’t make any such commitment, and they aren’t going to “execute” something they never agreed to do. Pompeo’s fabrications may not be noticed by American media outlets, but every time he speaks he is giving North Korea another reason not to trust the U.S.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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