US Pacific commander says must have 'eyes wide open' in North Korea summit

Donald Trump has agreed to a historic first meeting with Kim Jong Un in the US' nuclear standoff with North Korea.
Donald Trump has agreed to a historic first meeting with Kim Jong Un in the US' nuclear standoff with North Korea.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The head of the US Pacific Command said on Thursday (March 15) that the United States could not be overly optimistic about the outcome of any summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and must go into it with "eyes wide open".

Admiral Harry Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee he believed the United States would stick to its demand for the "complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisaton" of the Korean peninsula.

He said he was encouraged by the prospect of a summit, but that North Korea remained the biggest security threat in the Asia-Pacific region.

"I think we can't be overly optimistic on outcome. We will just have to see where it goes," Harris said.

"We've never been in a position where a president - our president - has met with a leader of North Korea, ever. I don't know how to predict the future. I just think we have to go into this with eyes wide open."

Trump made a surprise announcement last week that he was willing to meet Kim in a bid to resolve the crisis over North Korea's development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.

Trump made those remarks after a South Korean official who had met Kim last week said he had "committed to denuclearisation" and to suspending nuclear and missile tests, but North Korea had yet to comment directly on that meeting.

Harris said he believed Kim would like to see a reunification of the Korean peninsula under his rule, and sought respect, status and security through the possession of nuclear weapons.

Harris said he believed Kim would "do a victory dance" if the United States were to withdraw its forces from South Korea and Japan and abrogated those alliances.

Harris accused Russia of playing a "spoiler" role over North Korea and of seeking to "mess things up" when it came to sanctions and US President Donald Trump's maximum pressure campaign, even though Moscow officially supported the sanctions.

"If the sanctions that are put in place over North Korea are too hard on North Korea, including the sanctions that China is following, I believe Russia will seek to relieve pressure of the sanctions regime and the pressure campaign," Harris said.