By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) — North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un are not bothered at all by the U.S. military presence in South Korea, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argued in a memoir published Tuesday.
They rather consider U.S. troops in South Korea as a protection against Chinese dominance, according to Pompeo.
Pompeo said the North Korean leader had raised the issue of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises during their first meeting in Pyongyang.
“I insinuated that he was a little hypocritical to get worked up about them, given how his planes and rockets could within minutes, or perhaps seconds, lay waste to the city of Seoul, South Korea, a city of ten million people and only a few dozen kilometers from the demilitarized zone (DMZ),” he wrote.
Pompeo frequented the reclusive country during the height of U.S.-North Korea summitry that led to three historic meetings between then U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader in 2018 and 2019. The U.S. has some 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.
Pompeo said he had also told Kim that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had “consistently told the United States that American forces leaving South Korea would make Chairman Kim happy.”
“At this, Kim laughed and pounded on the table in sheer joy, exclaiming that the Chinese were liars,” wrote Pompeo.
“He (Kim) said that he needed the Americans in South Korea to protect him from the CCP, and that the CCP needs the Americans out so they can treat the peninsula like Tibet and Xinjiang,” he added.
Pompeo also offered to U.S. policymakers: “expanding U.S. missile and ground capabilities on the Korean Peninsula won’t bother the North Koreans at all.”
The former state secretary said Kim had made three commitments during his short visit to Pyongyang.
“He committed to completely getting rid of his nuclear weapons, saying they were a massive economic burden and made his nation a pariah in the eyes of the world,” said Pompeo.
“He further committed to putting a moratorium on his nuclear and missile development programs. He also committed to meeting with President Trump,” he added.
Kim and Trump held the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore in June 2018, two months after Pyongyang declared a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests.
The second Trump-Kim summit, held in Vietnam in February 2019, ended without a deal. The two met again briefly inside the DMZ during Trump’s trip to Seoul in June 2019, but the meeting again ended without any progress.
North Korea ended its self-imposed moratorium on weapons testing last year, firing 69 ballistic missiles, including eight intercontinental ballistic missiles, replacing its previous record of 25 ballistic missiles launched in one year.