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Pence says Trump to meet North Korea's Kim in 2019; won't allow broken promises

Reuters logo Reuters 11/15/2018 By John Geddie
Mike Pence wearing a suit and tie: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference in Singapore © Reuters/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday President Donald Trump plans to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the new year but won't repeat past mistakes of allowing promises to be broken on pledges to end arms programs. 

The United States and North Korea have been discussing a second meeting between their leaders to follow up the Singapore summit in June and lay the groundwork for ending a nuclear stand-off between the old foes.

"The plans are ongoing. We believe that the summit will likely occur after the 1st of the year but the when and the where of that is still being worked out," Pence told reporters after meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

"We don't want to repeat the mistakes that prior administrations, frankly in both political parties, have made over the last several decades where promises are made, sanctions are lifted, economic support comes and then promises are broken."

Pence and Moon were meeting on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit hosted by Singapore.

A U.S. think tank said on Monday it had identified at least 13 of an estimated 20 active, undeclared missile bases inside North Korea, underscoring the challenge for American negotiators hoping to persuade Kim to give up his weapons programs.

North Korea had entered into agreements with regional powers in 1994 and in 2005 to dismantle its nuclear program in return for economic benefits and diplomatic rewards, but those deals broke down after Pyongyang clandestinely continued to pursue building weapons of mass destruction.

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With scant sign of progress on negotiations since the June summit and recent high-level meetings canceled, Trump said last week he's now in "no rush" but still wants to meet with Kim for a second time.

U.S. officials have said sanctions forced North Korea to the negotiating table and vowed to keep pressure until complete denuclearization. But North Korea has credited its nuclear and missile breakthroughs for providing it the standing to meet the world's biggest powers.

Pence said Moon agreed to work closely with the United States toward the second U.S.-North Korea summit, as Washington maintains the "maximum pressure" campaign by keeping the sanctions against Pyongyang in place.

Asked if China, which has been the North's main economic benefactor, was doing enough to maintain sanctions pressure, Pence said Beijing has done more than they have ever done before and Trump was grateful for that.

A U.S. congressional commission said on Wednesday that China appears to have relaxed enforcement of sanctions on North Korea as Pyongyang began to engage with the United States this year.

Trump is expected to speak more about enforcing sanctions when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit late this month and the unique role that China can play in ensuring the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, Pence said.

North Korea has not tested a nuclear device or ballistic missile since last year, and has said it has shuttered its main nuclear test site with plans to dismantle several more facilities.

But it has warned it could restart its nuclear program if the United States does not drop the sanctions regime.

(Reporting by John Geddie; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing Paul Tait and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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