- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2018

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the Trump administration’s hard-line stance against North Korea’s is showing results in Pyongyang and warned that protests in Iran will get worse before getting better.

The administration’s approach to North Korea took a turn Saturday, when Mr. Trump said Washington would be open to direct talks over the regime’s nuclear program, amid reports of bilateral talks on the Olympics between Pyongyang and South Korea set for this week.

“I always believe in talking,” Mr. Trump told reporters during a briefing at Camp David. “If we can come up with a very peaceful and a very good solution that would be a great thing for all humanity, it would be a great thing for all the world.”

On Sunday, Mrs. Haley said the president’s hard-line strategy would bring Pyongyang to the negotiation table. She noted, however, that the administration’s demand for a denuclearized North Korea would have to be met before the idea of talks could be entertained.

“There could be a time where we talk to North Korea, but a lot of things have to happen before that actually takes place,” Mrs. Haley said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Specifically, Pyongyang must make concrete pledges to end its nuclear weapons program and disavow any nuclear ambitions, she said.

Mr. Trump’s offer of talks with North Korea comes after months of exchanging insults on social media with regime leader Kim Jong-un.

“Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a nuclear button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works!” Mr. Trump tweeted last week in response to Mr. Kim’s claims that his regime’s nuclear button sits on his desk.

Mrs. Haley on Sunday dismissed criticism that Mr. Trump’s recent comments have increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Critics claim such statements trivialize the possibility of nuclear war and push Washington closer to open conflict on the peninsula.

“They don’t wonder if we know what the hell we’re doing. I think it’s very clear we do. What they know is we’re not letting up on the pressure,” the U.N. ambassador said of the North Koreans. “We want to always remind them we can destroy you too, so be very cautious and careful with your words and what you do.”

Mr. Pompeo echoed Mrs. Haley on “Fox News Sunday,” saying the White House’s tough talk hammers home the seriousness of the situation.

“This is the first time in an awfully long time that American policy has been consistent. That tweet is entirely consistent with what we are trying to communicate,” Mr. Pompeo said.

When asked on CBS’ “Face The Nation” whether he believes Mr. Kim read the president’s nuclear button tweet, Mr. Pompeo replied: “I can’t tell you that Kim Jong-un has read that tweet, because I can’t prove it, but I’m confident that he did.”

As Washington continues to keep a keen eye on North Korea, administration officials also are closely tracking ongoing unrest in Iran, punctuated by public protests against the theocratic regime in Tehran.

Officials from the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed Sunday that its forces have shut down the protests, which flared up across Iran late December in Mashad, the country’s second largest city.

But Mr. Pompeo said the worst was not over for the regime.

“This issue in the protest in Iran is very real. The economic conditions in Iran are not good. That’s what caused the people to take to the streets,” he said. “There has certainly been violence that has taken place, that is the regime has used force to push back against it. But it’s my expectation these protests are not behind us.”

Tehran has claimed that 21 people have died in the protests. IRCG officials have claimed the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were responsible for sparking the protests in an effort to undermine Iran’s government.

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