US offers ‘unique’ guarantees to N. Korea if it gives up nukes

Pompeo: US will make guarantees to Pyongyang to show complete denuclearisation will not end badly for it

The US has offered North Korea "unique" security guarantees to try to persuade it to give up its nuclear arsenal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday, ahead of today's crucial summit here.

Talks were advancing faster than expected but were still ongoing with little more than 12 hours to go before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sits down with US President Donald Trump, Mr Pompeo told reporters.

The meeting will be the first between a serving US president and a North Korean leader, and will focus on the nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles the North has spent decades developing.

The Trump administration will accept only complete denuclearisation, Mr Pompeo said.

In return, he said, Washington would offer "different and unique" guarantees "to provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearisation is not something that ends badly for them".

He refused to go into details. But the North has long sought an end to the US military presence in the South, where Washington has around 28,000 troops stationed.

Pyongyang has demanded the end of what it calls a "hostile policy" towards it but in public has only pledged to pursue the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula - which is open to wide differences of interpretation.

Washington is eager to see if the pledges were "sincere", Mr Pompeo said, adding: "The US has been fooled before."

Verification would be key, he went on, saying many deals had been signed before only to find "the North Koreans did not promise what they said".

Mr Pompeo also addressed a report by The New York Times that the US team lacked technical expertise on dismantling North Korea's nuclear programme.

He said a team of experts - from the military, Department of Energy and members of the intelligence community covering North Korea - have been meeting over the last three months to discuss the issue.

"Any suggestion that the US lacks expertise across government or on the ground here in Singapore is mistaken," he said.

In Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae In had a phone call with Mr Trump, after telling key aides that it could take "one year, two years or even longer to completely resolve the issues concerned".

At a panel discussion in Singapore titled Peace Talks And The Korean Peninsula, organised by the Korea Press Foundation, South Korean government spokesman Nam Gwan Pyo told reporters yesterday his government hopes the summit can put an end to the Korean War and the division of the peninsula.

"I believe that the arrival of the two leaders in Singapore on Sunday to kick off the summit itself carries a huge significance," said Mr Nam, the deputy director of the presidential National Security Office.

"Until the summit concludes, the two sides are expected to engage in intense negotiation but we hope the summit will produce good results.

"We have come a long way and we are well aware that we still have a long way to go.

"I hope that... (the) summit can put an end to the structure of the world's last remaining Cold War and division of the Korean peninsula. I look forward to seeing the door wide open to peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula." - AFP, THE STRAITS TIMES