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NKorea Seeks Reduction in Sanctions    02/22 06:26

   The U.S. will not move to ease economic sanctions on North Korea until it is 
confident that the nuclear weapons threat from Pyongyang has been 
"substantially reduced," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. will not move to ease economic sanctions on 
North Korea until it is confident that the nuclear weapons threat from 
Pyongyang has been "substantially reduced," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said 
on Thursday.

   Pompeo didn't elaborate, but his comment seemed to leave open the 
possibility that sanctions relief was possible short of complete and verifiable 
denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

   Pompeo told NBC's "Today" that he hopes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will 
make good on his pledge to give up his nuclear weapons during his second 
meeting with President Donald Trump next week in Vietnam.

   But a senior administration official said the U.S. is still not sure if 
North Korea has decided to give up its nuclear weapons. Asked if North Korea 
was negotiating in good faith, the official said the nations are in a genuine 
negotiation, and it will take time to "tease out" exactly what is Kim's full 

   The official, who is familiar with the talks and spoke only on condition of 
anonymity, also said that reducing the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South 
Korea has not been a topic of the talks.

   There has been discussion, however, about using the summit as a venue to 
declare the end of the Korean War --- something that Kim has sought. The 
fighting ended with an armistice in July 1953. That armistice has yet to be 
replaced with a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.

   Pompeo said he didn't want to get into the details about what either side 
was willing to offer to make progress in the talks.

   "The American people should know we have the toughest economic sanctions 
that have ever been placed on North Korea and we won't release that pressure 
until such time as we're confident we've substantially reduced that risk," 
Pompeo said, adding that he hopes the two leaders will take a "truly historic 
step forward" at their meeting in Hanoi.

   Asked if the U.S. was willing to compromise on its goal of complete, 
verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Pompeo said:

   "To keep the American people safe, we have to reduce the threat from a 
nuclear-armed North Korea and then, in turn, we can work on peace and security 
on the peninsula and a brighter future for the North Korean people."

   Some lawmakers and North Korea experts worry that Trump will grant too many 
concessions to Kim without making him honor his pledge to give up his nuclear 

   They note that Kim still has a stockpile of nuclear warheads and ballistic 
missiles and the ability to produce the uranium or plutonium needed to make 
more. Kim has not yet signed any deal to denuclearize his nation, and 
commercial satellite images indicate that he's actually moving forward with his 

   "There are ample reasons to be skeptical that Chairman Kim is committed to a 
nuclear-free North Korea" the Democratic chairmen of the House Armed Services, 
Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees wrote in a letter to Trump on 

   Reps. Adam Smith of Washington, Adam Schiff of California and Eliot Engel of 
New York, respectively, accused the White House of cutting off congressional 
access to intelligence about North Korea's weapons and withholding information 
about the talks from Congress.

   "A summit that amounts to little more than spectacle will further erode the 
public confidence and the credibility of the United States, an outcome that we 
all wish to avoid," they wrote.


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