Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is aiming for “major” North Korean disarmament within the next 2.5 years.
Pompeo mentioned the potential timeline while visiting Seoul on Wednesday to brief South Korean officials on the prior day’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
The remark followed questions from reporters over whether Pompeo believed substantial headway would be made on nuclear disarmament by the end of the president’s current term.
“Oh yes, most definitely. Absolutely… you used the term major, major disarmament, something like that?” Pompeo said. “We’re hopeful that we can achieve that in the 2-1/2 years.”
Pompeo also alleged North Korea was informed that verification measures would be implemented throughout the process.
“I am… confident they understand that there will be in-depth verification,” Pompeo said. “Not all of that work appeared in the final document.”
The statement did not, however, include the administration’s timetable for full denuclearization.
While the US and North Korea are expected to hold future meetings to discuss further details, experts believe full denuclearization, if achievable, could take considerable time.
Professor Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory and the only American scientist to visit North Korea’s nuclear facilities four times, estimates a full disarmament under a phased process could take 15 years.
“We’re talking about dozens of sites, hundreds of buildings, and thousands of people,” Hecker said last month.
Hecker notes that properly decontaminating and decommissioning just one nuclear plant would take 10 years alone.
In an agreement signed at the Trump-Kim summit, North Korea pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump promised to end US-South Korean military exercises in the region so long as Pyongyang continues to negotiate in good faith.
Skeptics warn that North Korea has made the same promise numerous times in the past, including during the Six Party Talks in the 2000’s as well as at the time of the 1993 Agreed Framework.
Trump has stated he believes Kim to be genuine and committed to denuclearizing and modernizing his poverty-stricken country.