U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered on Friday to help improve North Korea's sanctions-hit economy if the country "quickly" dismantles its nuclear weapons program.
"If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on par with our South Korean friends," Pompeo said as the two countries prepare for what will be the first bilateral summit on June 12 in Singapore.
He called for "robust verification" in ridding Pyongyang of nuclear weapons as part of an effort to achieve the permanent and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Pompeo made the remarks during a joint news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha after their talks in Washington.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are planning for "a full day of meetings on the 12th, with some time reserved to carry over, if necessary," suggesting talks could extend into the following day.
"Certainly, the best outcome would be an agreement for complete and total denuclearization," Sanders said at a press briefing.
Pompeo called for "a robust verification program" so as to "ensure that North Korea doesn't possess the capacity to threaten not only the United States, but the world with nuclear weapons."
Such a program should involve partners around the world, such as South Korea and Japan, according to the chief U.S. diplomat.
The Pompeo-Kang talks came ahead of a meeting between Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae In on May 22 at the White House at which the two leaders are expected to ensure close coordination ahead of the Trump-Kim summit.
Referring to his meeting Wednesday with Kim in Pyongyang, Pompeo said he referred to the possibility that the United States would assure Kim of his regime's security in exchange for full denuclearization.
Pompeo said he discussed "challenges, the strategic decision that Chairman Kim has before him about how it is he wishes to proceed and if he is prepared in exchange for the assurances that we're ready to provide to him if he is prepared to fully denuclearize."
Kim is chairman of the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
Kang said the international community will not ease or lift sanctions on North Korea until the world sees visible and meaningful action by Pyongyang toward denuclearization.
Rather than merely words or promises from North Korea for denuclearization, "we very much hope to see further steps, more concrete steps toward denuclearization being produced at the U.S.-North Korea summit," Kang said.
"So we're not talking about sanctions relief at this point," she said.
Kang dismissed speculation that a drawing down of the 28,500 American troops stationed in North Korea could be part of a deal on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions.
"We would like to emphasize again that the U.S. military presence in Korea is a matter for the ROK-U.S. alliance first and foremost," she said, referring to the acronym for South Korea's formal name, the Republic of Korea.
She said the U.S. military presence in South Korea "has played a crucial role for deterrence and peace and stability of the region."