U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered Friday to help boost North Korea's economy if the regime swiftly dismantles its nuclear weapons program.
Pompeo spoke after coming out of talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.
"If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on par with our South Korean friends," he told reporters.
U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 to discuss the denuclearization of the regime.
Pompeo traveled twice to Pyongyang in recent weeks to meet with Kim and prepare for the summit.
"I think there is complete agreement about what the ultimate objectives are," he said, after saying that the U.S. objective remains the permanent, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. "We began to work through the modalities, how we would achieve that, but I'll leave conversations about that to another time."
Pompeo also said the North's dismantling of its nuclear program will require "robust verification."
Kang addressed reports about the possible drawing down of U.S. troops in South Korea as part of a deal on ending the North's nuclear ambitions. The issue will not be put on the table when Trump and Kim meet as it concerns the bilateral alliance, she said.
The foreign minister also ruled out any easing of sanctions against North Korea in the near future.
"We are very clear that sanctions remain in place until and unless we see visible, meaningful action taken by North Korea on the denuclearization track," she said at the same news conference.
Kang's trip to Washington comes ahead of a planned meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump at the White House on May 22. The two leaders will jointly prepare for the U.S.-North Korea summit.
Kim has expressed his commitment to denuclearization, including at his meeting with Moon last month. But while the U.S. demands an immediate dismantlement of the nuclear program, Kim has called for a phased and synchronized approach, leading skeptics to believe his real intention is to win sanctions relief.
Pompeo said he had "productive" discussions with Kim during his latest trip to Pyongyang on Tuesday.
"We had good conversations about the histories of our two nations, the challenges that we've had between us," he said. "We talked about the fact that America has, often in history, had adversaries who we are now close partners with and our hope that we could achieve the same with respect to North Korea."
The diplomat said it was an honor to bring home three American citizens who had been detained in the North.
"We wish these Americans and their families the best as they reconnect after a very difficult time apart," Pompeo said. "On behalf of the American people, we say, ' Welcome home.' The release of these three citizens helps set the conditions for a successful meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim." (Yonhap)