WASHINGTON: The denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is still possible in President Donald Trump's first term, a top US diplomat said, a week after the collapse of the talks with North Korea in Hanoi.
Last week, Trump walked out of his summit meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi as the two leaders could not agree on the various aspects of denuclearisation and its time-line.
"We still believe this (denuclearisation) is all achievable within the President's first term, and that's the time-table we are working on. We have discussed extensively the outlines of the calendar that allow us to do that, and it is doable," a senior State department official told reporters on Thursday.
The ultimate driver of this is not going to be the amount of days it takes. "It's going to be the degree to which we can satisfactorily achieve the steps that we feel are necessary to finally and fully verify the denuclearisation of North Korea. That's what we are working for," he said.
The official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said that he fully believes at this point they have sufficient time in the President's first term to do that.
"That's a little more than a year," he said.
Responding to a question, the official said the US seeking a fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea.
"That means taking out all key parts of their nuclear fuel cycle, removing all their fissile material, removing their nuclear warheads, removing or destroying all their intercontinental ballistic missiles, and permanently freezing any other weapons of mass destruction programs," he said.
It also means moving them on a course to re-orient their economy towards civilian pursuits in order to make this a permanent direction for their country.
"In exchange for that, what the North Koreans will be able to enjoy is integration into the global economy, a transformed relationship with the US, a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and a closure to a 70-year relationship characterised by hostility and warfare between our two countries," the official said.
He said Trump has made abundantly clear to Chairman Kim that he is personally interested in taking North Korea in this direction if Pyongyang gives up all of its weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery.
Responding to a question on the collapse of the talks in Hanoi, the official said the negotiations with the North Koreans in the run-up to the summit were very productive. The two sides covered a lot of areas.
"The area that we fell most short was on denuclearisation and it was clear to us that our North Korean interlocutors had very little authority to move on the set of issues that were, in our view, central to the success of this outcome," the official said.
Noting that the system in North Korea is driven from the top down, he said, and the US President understands this very much, and that's why he seeks to direct engagement with Kim Jong-Un to invest him in a shared vision of that brighter future that could happen if they denuclearise.
"In order for our North Korean counterparts to have more latitude, it's clear they are going to have to get direction and space from the top. They will not do that on their own. They will not test ideas at the negotiating table," he said.
So there's an important interplay between the President's summit meetings and the President's direct engagement between summit meetings with Kim Jong-Un and the amount of latitude that the negotiating teams at the working level are entrusted with in order to breathe life into some of these agreements, the State department official said.
"We need the North Korean negotiators to have much more latitude than they did in the run-up to the summit on denuclearisation, but I am confident that if they get that direction from the top of the North Korean Government, we can make quick progress with them," he said.