Pompeo insists North Korea agreement 'encompasses' verifiable, irreversible denuclearization

The secretary of state calls questions about agreement language "ridiculous."

The document calls only for “complete denuclearization,” sparking criticism the agreement was not specific enough to allow oversight of the denuclearization process.

“Let me assure you that ‘complete’ encompasses ‘verifiable’ in the minds of everyone concerned,” Pompeo told reporters in Seoul Wednesday. “One can’t completely denuclearize without validating, authenticating – you pick the word. The President is committed to that.”

When a reporter asked why the terms were not included in the statement, Pompeo replied “It’s in the statement. You’re just wrong about that.”

“I suppose you could argue semantics, but let me assure you that it’s in the document,” Pompeo continued.

Pushing back even more against the question, Pompeo called it “insulting and ridiculous and frankly ludicrous.”

“It’s a game. And one ought not play games with serious matters like this,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo did not want to outline a timeline for denuclearization, though both he and President Trump have called for “rapid” denuclearization in the past. Pompeo did say he hoped to achieve “major disarmament” during Trump’s first term, or in the next two and a half years.

About the so-called “war games,” as President Trump referred to military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, Pompeo said the exercises will be suspended only as long as there are ongoing “productive, good-faith negotiations.”

“At the point it’s concluded that they’re not, the president’s commitment to not have those joint exercises take place will no longer be in effect,” Pompeo said, promising to resume exercises if the nuclear talks fall through.

In terms of the immediate next steps, Pompeo said he is confident engagement with the North Koreans will begin within the “next week or so,” but he doesn’t know what form that engagement will take.