State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday that many American allies in Southeast Asia expressed gratitude to the United States and President Donald Trump for talking with North Korea.
Nauert was asked during a press conference to characterize the current situation in North Korea as the U.S. pushes for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. A reporter noted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in recent testimony before Congress that he felt there was "progress" on the North Korea issue. She also pointed out that earlier on Tuesday, National Security Adviser John Bolton said North Korea had not yet made progress in denuclearizing.
Nauert pointed to Pompeo's recent travel to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, and the progress made there.
"First of all, when we reflect on our trip that we recently went on to ASEAN in Singapore, the secretary had many bilateral and multilateral conversations with many nations there," Nauert said. "The resounding theme coming out of those meetings was ‘thanks to the United States for its leadership, thanks to President Trump for his leadership on this issue."’
"These countries were happy that we were able to get Chairman Kim [Jong Un] and the North Korean government to the table to begin having these conversations," Nauert said. "That's an incredible step and a huge step from where we were just one year ago."
The spokeswoman further said the process of denuclearization in North Korea would take some time.
"The secretary spoke about this just on Sunday and said the process of achieving denuclearization is one that we have all known will take some time," she said, "The world is united in seeing this achieved, so it will certainly take some time."
The reporter pushed back, noting Trump said immediately after his summit with Kim that denuclearization would start to happen immediately.
"The conversations continue. We knew that this would be a road; we knew the road would certainly take some time, and we're in the middle of that process right now," Nauert said.
The spokeswoman also responded to a question about whether Pompeo would travel soon to meet again with Kim Jong Un, saying the department had no plans, especially since the secretary just finished a long trip throughout Asia.
"I'm not going to predict what's going to happen, certainly, but we have not trips or travel to announce at this time," she said.