Pompeo en route to North Korea to finalise Trump-Kim meet

Blanche Robertson
May 9, 2018

President Donald Trump revealed on Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way to Pyongyang to prepare for Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressed hope that three Americans held there would soon be released.

Trump broke the news on Tuesday at the White House as he announced that the United States is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking to reporters accompanying him on the unannounced trip, the secretary of state said he expected to meet with "the most senior leaders" in Pyongyang, including possibly Kim himself.

During his last visit over Easter, when he was Central Intelligence Agency director, Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in an effort to assess what a summit might accomplish. "That won't lead to the outcome that I know Kim Jong Un wants and I know President Trump is demanding".

In an interview with Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun published Tuesday, Moon said he hoped for "Japan's active support and cooperation on the future road toward the settlement of permanent peace on the peninsula, as well as for the success of the US-North Korea summit meeting". Pyongyang has been disgruntled over what it called "misleading" assertions from some U.S. officials that North Korea is considering denuclearisation because of its fear of USA military prowess and to alleviate punishing sanctions - a "maximum pressure campaign" laid by Pompeo's predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who was sacked by Trump in March. The meeting occurred before Pompeo's nomination as secretary of state had been confirmed. It was not clear if Kim would meet Pompeo on Wednesday.

The leader of the USA and North Korea should keep in mind that the entire world is expecting them to make a breakthrough deal for peace on the peninsula. This trip is "to put in place a framework for a successful summit", he said.

The three still being held are Korean-American missionary Kim Dong Chul; Kim Sang-duk, who spent a month teaching at the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) before he was arrested in 2017, and Kim Hak Song, who also taught at PUST. Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang aims to lock down the date and venue for a formal announcement to be made. But momentum for diplomacy built this year as North and South Korea have moved to ease tensions, including with their own leaders' summit late last month.

North Korean state media said Mr Kim was "very pleased" that the relationship with China was reaching a high point, and North Korea would cooperate with China more actively as the situation on the Korean peninsula changed. A meeting in Tokyo with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled in Tokyo later this week; the leaders plan to discuss North Korean denuclearization.

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But his exact demands for relinquishing weapons that his nation spent decades building remain unclear.

"We are not going to fall for theatrical pronouncements on the end of their nuclear program".

The official said Pompeo is "clear-eyed about not repeating the mistakes of the past", and that what's needed is a "new and bold approach".

"We are committed to the permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program and to do so without delay,"Pompeo said".

"We've been asking for the release of these detainees for 17 months", he said. "We will not relieve sanctions until such time as we have achieved our objectives".

"We are not going to head down the path we headed down before", he said.

South Korea's Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said that China notified the South Korean government of the meeting. Some 28,500 USA forces are based in the allied nation, a military presence that has been preserved to deter North Korea since the war ended in 1953 without a peace treaty. Pyongyang claims Kim himself is the driver of the current situation and the spokesman said the US should not to interpret Pyongyang's willingness to talk as a sign of weakness.

After weeks of positive signals, though, North Korea on Sunday dismissed what it called "misleading" claims that Trump's policy of maximum political pressure and sanctions are what drove the North to talks. DPRK is short for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's formal name.

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