PENTAGON — A week after U.S. President Donald Trump proclaimed North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, his top military official cautioned there are no new signs Pyongyang is doing anything to denuclearize.
“I’m not aware of it,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon.
“I wouldn’t expect that at this point,” he added. “[We’re] obviously at the very front end of the process. The detailed negotiations have not begun.”
Trump declared the threat of a nuclear North Korea had ended June 13, following his summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted upon returning to the U.S. “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”
Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
But a day later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned tough sanctions would remain in place until the U.S. could verify Pyongyang’s “complete denuclearization.”
Pompeo has said he expects to return to North Korea soon to settle on details of the U.S. deal with Pyongyang.
As part of that agreement, Trump has pledged to end U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
South Korean officials this week said they had agreed to suspend the annual Freedom Guardian exercise with the U.S., originally scheduled to take place in August.
Details on how that will happen, though, are still being worked out.
U.S. and South Korean officials expect to discuss the issue Friday, with consultations expected to continue next week when the U.S. defense secretary travels to Seoul.
Mattis described the ongoing talks as part of the “usual, close coordination” between the U.S. and South Korean militaries.
“Everything is going fine between us and the Republic of Korea,” he said. “We’ll sort out some of the details here Friday morning.”
Mattis also said he had no update on when North Korea might return additional remains of U.S. servicemen killed during the Korean War, something Kim Jong Un pledged as part of the agreement in Singapore.
“These discussions are also ongoing,” Mattis said. “I know that we’re engaged on it. That’s all that I can tell you.”