Australia Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, second from left, speaks at a 2018 Australia-U.S. Ministerial (AUSMIN) Consultations news conference with Australia Minister for Defense Marise Payne, from left, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in Stanford, Calif., Tuesday, July 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

US, Australian officials tout cooperation on North Korea

July 24, 2018 - 3:43 pm

PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary James Mattis and top Australian officials on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons and touted the strong relationship between the two countries as they ended two days of meetings.

Pompeo told reporters at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University that reports that North Korea was dismantling a satellite launch site were "entirely consistent" with the commitment North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made to President Donald Trump at a summit in Singapore. He said the U.S. has been pressing for inspectors on the ground.

"They need to completely, fully denuclearize," Pompeo responded after he was asked what more he wanted to see from North Korea.

Pompeo is scheduled to testify before Congress Wednesday following President Donald Trump's widely criticized news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week during which Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies' conclusions that Moscow tried to tip the scales of the 2016 election in his favor.

Pompeo said history will show the world benefited from the meeting between the two leaders.

The news conference was also attended by Mattis, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne — who were glowing in their evaluation of U.S.-Australia relations.

"The United States is the global bastion of freedom and democracy, and the great appeal of the United States and one of its undoubted strengths is its network of alliances and partnerships around the world," Bishop said.

She congratulated the U.S. on the Singapore summit and said Australia backed the U.S. effort to bring "stability" to the Korean peninsula.

Asked later whether Trump's unpredictability might jeopardize relations, Bishop said the relationship was so deep and enduring that changes at the White House or in Australian leadership could not weaken it.

Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull got off to a rocky start within days of Trump taking office in January 2017 after they sparred by phone over a plan for the U.S. to accept hundreds of mostly Muslim refugees that Australia didn't want to take in itself. The two have met multiple times since then and appeared to be chummy during a meeting at the White House in February.

Payne said Australia has 43 people who are missing in action from the Korean War, and has given the U.S. dental records and DNA to assist in the identification of any remains the U.S. may receive.

North Korea has yet to return the remains of some U.S. service members, as was promised as part of an agreement signed in Singapore.

Payne said Australia was committed to enforcing sanctions on North Korea and achieving "the final, fully verified denuclearization" of North Korea.

The two countries agreed to consult on their vision for the Indo-Pacific region and coordinate efforts to combat "foreign interference," among other commitments made at the meeting, according to the State Department.

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