There is still 'opportunity' to negotiate full denuclearization: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on North Korea

Mike Pompeo remains optimistic after North Korea performed a test launch Friday.

May 5, 2019, 11:06 AM

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that despite a North Korean test launch this weekend, he believes there is still a path to full denuclearization of the country.

"We still believe that there's an opportunity to get an negotiated outcome where we get fully verified denuclearization," Pompeo told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on "This Week." "Chairman Kim has repeated that. He's repeated that quite recently in fact."

Pompeo added, "And so we hope that this act that he took over the weekend won't get in the way."

On Friday night, North Korea launched a "barrage" of unidentified short-range projectiles into the Sea of Japan, American and South Korean military officials confirmed to ABC News.

The purpose of the drill, which was overseen by Chairman Kim Jong Un, "was to estimate and inspect the operating ability and the accuracy of striking duty performance of large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons by defence units," according to North Korea’s state media, KCNA.

Pompeo provided an update on "This Week" on what the U.S. has learned about the launch.

"We know a couple things," Pompeo said. "One, at no point was there ever any international boundary crossed. That is, they landed in the water east of North Korea and didn't present a threat to the United States or to South Korea or Japan. And we know that they were relatively short-range." He added that the U.S. knows the projectiles were not intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs.

Pompeo said he would let the Defense Department provide more information as the U.S. receives it.

PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after attending a wreath laying ceremony at a navy memorial in Vladivostok, Russia, April 26, 2019.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after attending a wreath laying ceremony at a navy memorial in Vladivostok, Russia, April 26, 2019.
Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement late Friday that said the administration was aware of the reports and would "continue to monitor as necessary."

In a tweet Saturday morning after the activity, President Donald Trump still appeared optimistic about the U.S.-North Korean relationship.

"Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!" Trump tweeted.

Karl challenged Pompeo on the "I am with him" portion of Trump's statement in light of the dictator’s brutal regime.

Pompeo responded, "This is a president who has put on the toughest sanctions in the history of the world against North Korea. The president understands the challenges. The president deeply understands this."

He added, "We are working on finding a path forward, with Chairman Kim, to denuclearize his country diplomatically.

Trump made history when he became the first sitting U.S. president to meet face-to-face with a leader of North Korea as he and Kim met for a summit in Singapore in June 2018. The two administrations continued to communicate after the summit, and Trump and Kim met for a second summit in Hanoi in February, but it ended abruptly in an apparent stalemate.

To that end, Pompeo said Sunday "We are further along than we were a year ago, and we hope we can continue to make progress."

The North Koreans wanted the United States to remove some sanctions before taking steps to dismantle its nuclear program. The administration has maintained that the goal in North Korea is complete and verifiable denuclearization.

"You always have to be prepared to walk," Trump said during a press conference. "I could have 100 percent signed something today. We actually had papers ready to be signed, but it was not appropriate. I would rather do it right. I would rather do it right than fast."

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