US Defense Secretary James Mattis warned on Sunday that Washington and the international community will not lift sanctions on North Korea until “the total denuclearization” of that country.
“North Korea will only be released from sanctions if it takes verifiable and irreversible steps towards denuclearization,” he said, in remarks collected by Channel Newasia television channel.
“I can anticipate that the road will be rugged,” added Mattis, referring to the negotiation process that will begin with the summit of the North American leaders, Donald Trump, and North Korean, Kim Jong-un, next day 12 in Singapore.
The US Secretary of Defense made the statement shortly before meeting with his South Korean colleagues, Song Young Moo, and Japanese, Itsunori Onodera, in the framework of the dialogue forum Sangri-La, which concludes this Sunday in the city-state.
The warning of Mattis takes place after that in his intervention yesterday before the plenary of the conference – the most important one in security of Asia -, will show a hard line with China, the main ally of Pyongyang in the continent.
“There will be consequences if the Chinese do not cooperate with their neighbors,” said Mattis, referring to the territorial dispute between Beijing and Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei in what is known as the South China Sea.
Mattis described as “intimidating” the military deployment of China in that maritime space, rich in natural resources, of high strategic value and that together with the beginning of the dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang, he focused the discussions on the conference.
Lieutenant General He Lei, vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences of the People’s Liberation Army and head of the Chinese delegation at the meeting, soon described Mattis’s statement as “irresponsible”.
“China is free to deploy weapons in its territory and the declarations of some countries on that issue violate Chinese sovereignty and are irresponsible,” the head of the Beijing delegation said on Saturday.
In addition to the United States, China, the two Koreas and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as Japan, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and France sent representatives to the meeting, which opened on Friday.