UPDATE : 2018.9.20 THU 12:21
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U.S. will not lift sanctions until N. Korea takes concrete steps to denuclearize: White House

The United States will not lift sanctions until North Korea takes "concrete actions" to denuclearize, the White House said Monday.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at a press briefing that U.S. President Donald Trump plans to continue the "maximum pressure" campaign of economic and diplomatic sanctions until the North takes actions toward denuclearization.

"Certainly no sanctions lifted until we see concrete actions taken by North Korea to denuclearize," she said, adding the U.S. goal remains the "complete and total" denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

This AP file photo shows White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. (Yonhap)

Trump is expected to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May or June to talk about dismantling the regime's nuclear weapons program.

The North has so far expressed a "commitment" to denuclearize in messages conveyed through South Korean officials.

But Trump sowed confusion Sunday when he tweeted that the regime had "agreed" to denuclearize.

Asked to clarify the president's remark, Sanders said, "Certainly in a number of the conversations ... also South Korean President Moon, who has said that North Korea has expressed a will for complete denuclearization."

"We're not naive in this process," she added. "We've seen some steps in the right direction, but we have a long way to go."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is due to have his own meeting with Kim Friday to discuss denuclearization and inter-Korean ties.

Ahead of the historic summits, the North announced Saturday that it would suspend all nuclear and ballistic missile tests and close its nuclear test site. But it stopped short of a promise to abandon its existing nuclear weapons.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis still held out hope for the upcoming talks.

"Right now, I think there is a lot of reasons for optimism that the negotiations will be fruitful and we'll see," he said at the Pentagon when asked for his view on the North's statement.

In Toronto, acting U.S. Secretary of State John Sullivan told reporters of his meeting with his counterparts from the Group of Seven advanced economies: "We also remain united in opposition to the DPRK's continued development of unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"We call for all countries around the world to take action and reinforce this message to Pyongyang and to rigorously enforce the U.N. Security Council (sanctions) resolutions," he said. "International unity is essential as we continue to push diplomatic and economic pressure until the DPRK concedes to complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization."

Kim Sua  edt@koreapost.com

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