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Mike Pomeo gestures gestures as South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha points in Washington
Mike Pomeo met South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha after returning to Washington from North KoreaImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Brandon

Pompeo: US ready to help make North Korea rich

May 12, 2018

The US is willing to boost North Korea's economy and put it on a par with the rich South Korea in return for denuclearization, US top diplomat Mike Pompeo has said. The denuclearization would need to be "complete."


A day after returning from a visit to Pyongyang, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo said Washington could help bring economic prosperity to isolated North Korea.

"If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the US is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on a par with our South Korean friends," he said on Friday, appearing at a press conference alongside his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha in Washington.

The two Korean states had a comparable economy by the 1970s. Currently, however, the communist North Korea is one of the poorest nations in the world and relies on foreign aid to stave off famine from its population. In contrast, its southern neighbors boast the world's 11th largest economy with average annual wages of $32,399 (€27,137) per capita in 2016.

"If Chairman Kim (Jong Un) chooses the right path, there is a future brimming with peace and prosperity for the North Korean people," Pompeo said.

Read more: From Little Rocket Man to pledge of denuclearization - a Trump-Kim timeline

From adversaries to partners

Pompeo has visited Pyongyang twice in recent months as Washington and Pyongyang work to prepare a summit between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump over the denuclearization of the peninsula. Yesterday, Trump announced the meeting was scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

During the Friday press conference, Pompeo said he had had a "warm" conversation with the North Korean dictator and that he believed the two countries agreed on the objectives of the summit.

"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."

Read more: Can Pyongyang be trusted on denuclearization?

Seoul needs US troops

His South Korean colleague Kang Kyung-wha praised the upcoming Kim-Trump summit as a "historic" opportunity, but emphasized that Seoul was not yet ready to ease sanctions on North Korea.

"We very much hope to see further steps, more concrete steps toward denuclearization at the US-North Korea summit, so we're not talking about sanctions relief at this point," Kang said.

She also stressed the importance of the US troops stationed in South Korea, as observers speculate Pyongyang may ask for their withdrawal. Any change in the 35,000-strong US contingent should be off the table for the July summit, she said.

dj/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters)