United States Secretary of State on Wednesday said North Korea is continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs in spite of its pledge to denuclearise. Pompeo, however, argued that the Donald Trump-administration was making progress in talks with Pyongyang, Reuters reported.

Pompeo made the statement during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland and his June 12 summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Kim had committed to the “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean Peninsula during the summit.

Pompeo declined to respond when asked whether North Korea was continuing to pursue submarine-launched ballistic missiles or whether its nuclear programme was advancing generally.

Pompeo said the US was engaged in “patient diplomacy” to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but would not let the process “drag out to no end.”

After the historic summit with Kim, Trump tweeted that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” but he has faced criticism about the lack of progress towards denuclearisation. Pompeo insisted that “progress is happening” and that Trump is “upbeat about the prospects of North Korean denuclearisation”, AFP reported.

US-Russia summit

Pompeo also defended Trump’s foreign policy actions as senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties denounced the president’s behaviour. Democrats and Republicans questioned him during his testimony before the Senate committee about Trump’s failure to hold Putin accountable for Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, Reuters reported.

Putin had rejected allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections during the summit at Helsinki in July. Trump declared he believed Putin’s claims that Russia had not interfered in the US presidential election. However, Trump later appeared to have backtracked by saying he had “great confidence” in his people from the intelligence community.

Pompeo said he had been briefed on Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Putin, who US intelligence agencies said knew about Russia’s meddling in the election. The matter is under investigation by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Crimea annexation

Before the Senate hearing started, Pompeo issued a statement saying that the US “rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored”, reported CNN.

“The United States calls on Russia to respect the principles to which it has long claimed to adhere and to end its occupation of Crimea,” the statement read.

Pompeo reassured Senators during the hearing that the US would not lift sanctions against Russia until Moscow returned control of Crimea to Ukraine.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry quickly dismissed Pompeo’s comments. “We know the worth of such momentous declarations,” ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a post on Facebook account, Reuters reported.