The United States will not reward North Korea before the regime "permanently, irreversibly" dismantles its nuclear weapons program, the nominee to be the top U.S. diplomat said Thursday.
Mike Pompeo, the nominee for U.S. secretary of state, told his Senate confirmation hearing that the Trump administration does not plan to repeat the failures of past negotiations that provided Pyongyang with economic aid before its nuclear program was undone.
"It is the intention of the president and the administration not to do that this time to make sure that before we provide rewards, we get the outcome permanently, irreversibly, that it is that we hope to achieve," said Pompeo, who currently serves as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
"It is a tall order, but I am hopeful that President Trump can achieve that through sound diplomacy," he said.
Pompeo is known to be leading preparatory talks with Pyongyang ahead of a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May or June.
He expressed confidence that the administration will come up with conditions for a peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.
"No one is under any illusions we'll reach a comprehensive agreement through the president's meeting," Pompeo said. "But to set up the conditions acceptable to each side, for the two leaders who will ultimately make the decision about whether such an agreement can be achieved and then set in place, I'm optimistic that the United States government can set the conditions for that appropriately."
Then Trump and Kim "can have that conversation" and "set us down the course of achieving the diplomatic outcome that America and the world so desperately need."
The summit is being planned after the U.S. president accepted Kim's invitation and commitment to denuclearization, conveyed by South Korean officials last month.
Trump's pick of Pompeo, who has been labeled a foreign policy hawk, raised concerns the administration could lean toward military action against Pyongyang.
The nominee denied that he had ever advocated for regime change in the North.
"My mission, and I've articulated my own personal views on this -- we have a responsibility to achieve a condition where Kim Jong-un is unable to threaten the United States of America with a nuclear weapon," he said.
Tensions heightened last year as the communist nation test-fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile apparently capable of striking the U.S. mainland and detonated its sixth nuclear bomb.
Pompeo said the U.S. may have to move "past diplomacy" if there were indications of a direct North Korean threat to the U.S.
But he also agreed with a Democratic senator that the consequences would be "catastrophic" if the U.S. initiated an attack on the North.