CIA Director Mike Pompeo misrepresented the facts when he suggested the Trump administration was responsible for changing China’s policy on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Pompeo said that “the Chinese now … believe the correct answer has to be a denuclearized peninsula.” In fact, China has supported “the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” since at least 2005.
Pompeo, a former Republican congressman who was appointed CIA director by President Donald Trump, discussed North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on “Fox News Sunday.” He praised Trump and top administration officials for their handling of the issue, singling out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
He said the administration has made “real progress” in trying to stop North Korea from moving ahead with its nuclear weapons program. Pompeo then went on to discuss the impact of the Trump administration’s efforts on China (at about 50 seconds into the video).
Pompeo, Aug. 13: My hats off to the president, Secretary Tillerson, Ambassador Haley. They have united the world with [U.N.] sanctions against North Korea, 15-0 vote. That’s real progress.
We’ve seen the Chinese now say for among the first times that they believe the correct answer has to be a denuclearized peninsula. And that’s exactly the policy of the Trump administration.
The director is right about the 15-0 U.N. Security Council vote on Aug. 5, but he gets the facts wrong about China’s support for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
China is a member of the six-party talks – which are “a series of multilateral negotiations held intermittently since 2003 and attended by China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States for the purpose of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program,” as described by the Arms Control Association. As a party to those talks, China has embraced a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.
“China has long supported denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (by which it means no nuclear weapons),” James M. Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told us. “This was spelled out explicitly in, for example, the 2005 joint statement” issued after the fourth round of six-party talks held in China.
Six-party talks joint statement, Sept. 19, 2005: The Six Parties unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the Six-Party Talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.
Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, said there has been no change “in China’s positioning on denuclearization” since then.
“There are countless examples of China condemning North Korea’s nuclear weapons program as illegal and reiterating that denuclearization of North Korea remains the ultimate objective,” she told us in an email. “China’s support for the goal of denuclearization is not new and not inspired by Trump’s approach to North Korea.”
The U.N. Security Council, which includes China, has adopted seven major resolutions in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions since 2006, Davenport said. All seven resolutions reiterated the U.N. Security Council’s support for a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Resolution 1718 — the first of the seven — called for resumption of the six-party talks “with a view to the expeditious implementation of the Joint Statement issued on 19 September 2005 by China, the DPRK, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States, to achieve the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
In Resolution 2371 — the most recent one cited by Pompeo, the U.N. Security Council “reiterates its support for the commitments set forth in the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005 issued by China, the DPRK, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States, including that the goal of the Six-Party Talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.”
Pompeo has every right to express his opinion that the Trump administration is making “real progress” on North Korea. But he’s wrong when he says “the Chinese now … believe the correct answer has to be a denuclearized peninsula.” That has been the policy for more than a decade.