Missiles don’t impact talks

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Hindustan Surkhiyan Desk:♦ US approves $800m in copters for S Korea
♦ Pompeo talks maritime security, Iran with Saudi crown prince  

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday downplayed North Korea’s latest missile launches, saying they won’t alter the prospects for negotiations on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

One day after North Korea called a new round of short-range missiles a “warning” against joint US-South Korea military exercises, Pompeo told reporters that it didn’t impact Washington’s approach to the region.

The latest launches were the fourth pair of projectiles fired in less than two weeks by the North. They came after the South Korean and US militaries began mainly computer-simulated joint exercises on Monday to test Seoul’s ability to take operational control in wartime.

Asked if the missile launches dampened the environment for negotiations on denuclearization, Pompeo replied “No.”

“President Trump’s administration strategy with respect to North Korea hasn’t changed,” he said.

“Our effort is to achieve the full, final denuclearization of North Korea. We are hopeful that in the coming weeks we will get back to negotiating table to achieve that.”

Pompeo noted that the recent launches by North Korea did not involve the medium and long-range ballistic missiles that had raised alarms in 2017 and 2018, and that Pyongyang has stopped testing nuclear weapons since September 2017.

“Those are both good things,” he said.

“Now the task is for us to deliver on want the two leaders agreed to back in June of last year in Singapore,” he said, referring to meetings between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, when the North made a vague pledge on denuclearization.

Meanwhile, the US government has approved the sale of $800 million worth of helicopters to South Korea, the Pentagon announced Wednesday, hours after President Donald Trump said Seoul had agreed to pay more for the US military presence in the country.

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the State Department had approved the sale of 12 MH-60R Multi-Mission Seahawk Helicopters and extensive associated radar, communications and weaponry equipment.

Pompeo also discussed maritime security, Iran and Yemen with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a phone call on Wednesday.

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