Pompeo in Detroit: U.S. will alter armistice agreement for denuclearization

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field in Detroit Monday.

Detroit — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday the U.S. will "alter the armistice agreement" that yielded a cease-fire between the Korean forces nearly 65 years ago when Kim Jong Un truly denuclearizes his country.  

The agreement, which was signed July 27, 1953, ended the Korean War from a military perspective but is not a permanent peace treaty between countries. It was designed to suspend open hostilities while establishing the Demilitarized Zone. North Korea has long desired a peace treaty to establish its legitimacy in the world.

Pompeo made the brief remark Monday while appearing before the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field. It comes after his trip last week to Singapore with President Donald Trump for a summit with Kim.

“We still have to flesh out all the things that underlay the commitments that were made in Singapore that day," Pompeo said. 

"He (Kim) has made very clear his commitment to fully denuclearize his country. That’s everything, it’s not just the weapons. In return for that, the president has committed to make sure we alter the armistice agreement and provide the security assurances Chairman Kim needs.” 

Trump did not address the armistice agreement in his remarks following the summit with Kim.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about Pompeo's comment at a press briefing Monday afternoon.

“We’re finalizing the details of what the process will look like,” Sanders said, adding the State Department and Department of Defense would have more details.

E. Han Kim, a University of Michigan professor and expert on Korean politics, said the modifying the armistice agreement would be a “small step toward possible normalization” of the relationship North Korea has with the U.S., South Korea and the rest of the world.

Kim said what this progression will lead to ultimately is the important thing: denuclearization and a peaceful coexistence.

“I think if we can achieve the normalization of the relationship and a peaceful coexistence and open trade, I think that is just wonderful,” Kim said. “But that’s a long way to go, and there are lots of obstacles before we can achieve the goal. So I think it has a meaning symbolically, but it’s just a long way to go.”

Pompeo indicated Monday that's "hard to know" whether the U.S. will need another summit with Kim.

“There is a lot of work between here and there; my team is already doing it," he said. "I will likely travel back before too terribly long.”

Pompeo added China and Russia are on board with efforts by the United States to reshape how North Korea thinks about itself and its place in the community of nations.

“Both Russia and China are fully on board with our effort,” Pompeo told a crowd of 400.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo greets attendees at the Detroit Economic Club luncheon at Ford Field Monday.

Pompeo also told the Detroit crowd that for too long America has allowed the free trade framework to become distorted to the advantages of other countries.

“Remember, our diplomacy puts American workers and American businesses first,” he said. “President Trump has clearly said the asymmetric trade relationships with G-7 also need to be fundamentally reconsidered.

“They need to lower their trade barriers and accept our beef, our vegetables, our fruits our machine products. These are non-tariff barriers, that ought not to exist if free and fair trade is to be achieved. It’s a simple moral principle. This idea of fairness."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to a packed house at the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field Monday.

Pompeo noted the U.S. would be "happy to have zero percent tariffs on every product."

"We are happy to eliminate all subsidies. We would be thrilled to see non-tariff barriers eliminated,” Pompeo said. “If every country does that, we will, too, and I am confident that will grow America.”

Pompeo mentioned Detroit's economic upswing, often referred to as the city's renaissance. He said the same progress is being seen across America, and "there are now more jobs available than job-seekers seeking them."

He also highlighted the importance of increasing exports of American products, specifically automobiles, that will benefit Detroit's automakers.

When asked about the impact of trade negotiations and tariffs on the U.S. relationship with Canada, Pompeo said Trump is determined to correct issues that don’t match with today’s business environment.

“I’m convinced when the trade negotiations are complete that there will be more volume, more dollars and greater freedom of trade between the United States and Canada,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said a lot has changed in the 24 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement was first put into place.

“Our goal is to achieve an outcome that re-balances that situation. Kind of level the playing field for the American automotive industry and other sectors and incentivizing manufacturing here and not there," he said. "This obviously matters a lot to you here in Michigan."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field in Detroit Monday.

Pompeo is the fourth sitting secretary of state to address the club in its 84-year history and the first since George Shultz spoke there in 1987 and 1983, according to club records.

Henry Kissinger addressed the group in 1975 and Dean Rusk spoke in 1964 and '67.

Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency under Trump until his confirmation by the Senate for the State Department in late April. 

Susan Powers, 69, of Royal Oak said she was glad she attended Monday's speech and was most interested in Pompeo’s comments about North Korea “in that there will be continued negotiations and that will happen, meaning the denuclearization.”

“I’m glad to hear the things they’re doing and it was interesting (to hear) about the state department and that they do all this other stuff in countries economically,” Powers said.

Steve Grigorian, CEO of the Detroit Economic Club, said it’s clear from the speech that Pompeo is a supporter and believer in Trump’s economic policies and saw the main message as “our economic policy is also our national security.”

Grigorian said the fact that Pompeo chose the city of Detroit to deliver his first major economic policy address after the North Korea summit spoke volumes.

“I think it’s because we’re the heartbeat of the American economy, and I think they recognize that,” Grigorian said.