BEIJING - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Thursday that peace efforts with North Korea still faced “risks” and insisted that sanctions must be maintained on Pyongyang until it dismantles its nuclear arsenal.

Pompeo made the remarks during a regional tour to brief South Korean, Japanese and Chinese officials about President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

The Trump administration has drawn criticism over the vague wording of a summit statement regarding denuclearisation and concerns among allies about the US president’s decision to stop war games.

Washington remained committed to the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearisation of North Korea , Pompeo said in Seoul after talks with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers.

“We believe that Kim Jong Un understands the urgency... that we must do this quickly,” he said of the effort to have North Korea abandon its atomic arsenal.

In Beijing, Pompeo said China “reaffirmed its commitment” to United Nations sanctions after the foreign ministry suggested earlier this week that the UN Security Council could consider easing the economic punishment against its Cold War-era ally. “We truly believe that we have a path forward after so many years that can bring peace,” Pompeo told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before talks with President Xi Jinping. But, he warned, “there are still risks that we won’t achieve” that goal and more work needs to be done.

Any reduction in tensions on its doorstep is welcome for China, North Korea’s closest ally, which accounts for around 90 percent of Pyongyang’s trade.

Pompeo, speaking alongside Wang, said the UN resolutions have mechanisms for sanctions relief “and we agreed that at the appropriate time that those would be considered”. But, he added, “we have made very clear that the sanctions and the economic relief that North Korea will receive will only happen after the full denuclearisation, the complete denuclearisation of North Korea .”

For his part, Wang said China has a “firm commitment” to denuclearisation but that North Korea’s “legitimate” concerns must be addressed.

Wang said the denuclearisation process would be worked out “through more detailed and specific consultations going forward” and “China stands ready to play a constructive role in that process”.

Before holding closed-door talks with Pompeo, Xi said the Singapore summit had been “successful”.

Major US military exercises with

South Korea suspended

The US military has indefinitely postponed major joint exercises with South Korea, an official told AFP on Thursday, acting on President Donald Trump’s pledge to halt the “provocative” military drills following his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

The move, a significant break in how the US and South Korean militaries have worked together for decades, came even as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that peace efforts still face risks, and insisted sanctions must be maintained until Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear arsenal. “Major military exercises have been suspended indefinitely on the Korean peninsula,” a senior US official told AFP. Trump on Tuesday had said the US would halt “war games” with its South Korean security ally - but he did not make clear when the freeze would kick in.