The United States wants to see the complete elimination of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction that begins with a freeze on their production, the State Department said Tuesday.
The comment comes ahead of the expected resumption of negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and could signal the U.S.' openness to adopting a step-by-step approach to its dismantlement.
The U.S. position in earlier negotiations with the North had centered on the regime dismantling all of its nuclear and missile facilities before receiving any sanctions relief in return.
"We obviously clearly want to see the complete elimination of WMDs in North Korea," department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said during a press briefing. "As the president has said many times, he hopes Kim Jong-un and the North Korean people see the brighter future and the brighter vision that he has for those people."
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed at their first summit in Singapore in June 2018 to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees for Pyongyang.
But their second summit in Vietnam in February ended without a deal due to differences over the scope of North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief from the U.S.
A third impromptu meeting, held at the inter-Korean border on June 30, produced an agreement to resume negotiations within the next few weeks.
Controversy followed when The New York Times reported that the U.S. could settle for a nuclear freeze in the hopes it will create a foundation for the next round of talks.
"That would never be the resolution of a process; that would never be the end of a process," Ortagus said. "That would (be) something that we would certainly hope to see at the beginning, but I don't think that the administration has ever characterized a freeze as being the end goal. That's -- would be at the beginning of the process."
Asked whether the U.S. still stands by its goal of final, fully verified denuclearization (FFVD) or complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID), Ortagus reverted to her earlier choice of words.
"You can use whatever acronym you would like. I get tongue-twisted when I try to use them, so I'm just going to say complete elimination of WMDs, so that way I don't mess up the acronyms," she said.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, the U.S. point man on the North, is in Belgium and Germany this week to discuss the nuclear issue with European officials as well as his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon.
"There is no plan to meet with North Korean officials on this trip," Ortagus said, dismissing speculation that some form of working-level talks could begin this week.
Biegun's trip was planned before Trump traveled to South Korea and held the surprise meeting with Kim, she said. The leaders' encounter in the Demilitarized Zone was a meeting, not a summit or a negotiation, she added.
The spokeswoman declined to offer details on planning for the next round of negotiations, except to say that contacts and discussions between the two sides have been ongoing.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told reporters earlier that he expected the talks to resume in mid-July.(Yonhap)