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U.S. not ‘starry-eyed’ on N. Korea, national security adviser says

National Security Adviser John Bolton, seen here on

National Security Adviser John Bolton, seen here on April 13, said the president would not ease economic sanctions on North Korea until it completely dismantles its nuclear weapons program. Credit: AP / Susan Walsh

Newly confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, both making the rounds of the Sunday talk show circuit, said the Trump administration is not entering high-stakes denuclearization talks with North Korea “starry-eyed” or with “naive” expectations.

Pompeo, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” acknowledged the scrutiny surrounding the upcoming talks between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but shot back at criticism the administration has not sought enough concessions from North Korea ahead of the meeting.

Pompeo, who met with Kim secretly during Easter weekend in his previous role as CIA director, said the two talked about releasing three Americans detained by North Korea as one of the conditions for successful talks.

“We know the history. We know the risks. We’re going to be very different,” Pompeo told ABC News’ Jon Karl, referring to efforts of past administrations to negotiate with North Korea. “We’re not going to make promises. We’re not going to take words. We’re going to look for actions and deeds.”

Bolton, appearing on “Fox News Sunday” said the president would not ease economic sanctions on North Korea until it completely dismantles its nuclear weapons program. Despite Kim’s recent pledge to stop nuclear weapons testing ahead of the summit with Trump, Bolton said “mere words are not going to persuade anybody.”

“It’s also the case that they’ve lied about it and broken their commitments,” Bolton said. “Which is one reason there’s nobody in the Trump administration starry-eyed about what may happen here.”

The meeting between Trump and Kim is still in the works, with the president announcing last week that a site for the summit had been narrowed to two locations. Trump has said he is hopeful the meeting will result in “total denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula, but has also said if talks are not fruitful, he will walk away from the bargaining table.

Kim has told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons program if the United States commits to formally ending the Korean War and promises not to invade North Korea, a South Korean government spokeswoman told The New York Times on Sunday.

“If we meet often and build trust with the United States and if an end to the war and nonaggression are promised, why would we live in difficulty with nuclear weapons?” Kim told Moon, according to an account provided by South Korea’s government, following historic talks between the two leaders held Friday.

Kim also said he was open to inviting journalists and experts from the United States and South Korea to witness the shutdown of the country’s underground nuclear test site.

Lawmakers weighing in on the upcoming North Korea summit urged the Trump administration to continue taking a hard-line stance with Kim, noting that despite Kim’s recent overtures, he remains a repressive leader.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he did not agree with the president’s use of the word “honorable” to describe Kim last week.

“I would never use the word ‘honorable’ to describe Kim Jong Un,” Lankford said. “I think he’s better to be able to just call him ‘rocket man’ and to be able to stick with that, than honorable just because he’s a ruthless dictator that does public executions of anyone that disagrees.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said Trump should not compromise with Kim on pulling U.S. troops from South Korea. Kim reportedly has sought the withdrawal of the more than 28,000 American forces stationed in South Korea, but did not bring up the request when meeting with Pompeo, according to media reports.

“Our presence in South Korea continues to be essential,” Blunt said.

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