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Pompeo hails 'productive' talks with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang

The top US diplomat met with Kim for around two hours this morning in the North’s capital.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Image: US Department of State/dpa via PA Images

US SECRETARY OF State Mike Pompeo has hailed “productive” talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang before landing in Seoul on a whirlwind diplomatic visit to the region.

The top US diplomat met with Kim for around two hours this morning in the North’s capital, where denuclearisation and a second US-North Korean summit were expected to be high on the agenda, before the pair shared a lunch together.

“Had a good trip to Pyongyang to meet with Chairman Kim,” Pompeo tweeted.

“We continue to make progress on agreements made at Singapore Summit. Thanks for hosting me and my team.”

The visit was Pompeo’s fourth to North Korea. US President Donald Trump met Kim in Singapore in June for the first-ever summit between the countries, resulting in what critics say was only a vague commitment by Kim towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Speaking to Pompeo via an interpreter following the morning’s talks, Kim praised their “nice meeting”.

He added: “It’s a very nice day that promises a good future … for both countries.”

At a meeting later on Sunday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Pompeo declined to give specific details of the Pyongyang talks but said he had “a good productive conversation” with Kim.

“President Trump said there are many steps along the way and we took one of them today,” Pompeo said.

“It was another step forward so this is I think a good outcome for all of us.

The dovish Moon, who held three summits with Kim this year and also brokered the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, said the “whole world” was watching with keen interest the outcomes of Pompeo’s trip.

“I hope your trip to North Korea and the upcoming second US-North Korea summit will provide a good opportunity for achieving irreversible, decisive progress in terms of denuclearisation and the peace process on the Korean peninsula.”

‘Gangster-like demands’

After a previous visit to Pyongyang in July, Pompeo had said the two foes made progress on key issues – but within hours of his departure the North condemned “gangster-like” demands from the US, raising questions over how much the two sides really saw eye to eye.

An official on today’s latest visit to Pyongyang with Pompeo said the trip was “better than the last time”, but added: “It’s going to be a long haul.”

On the flight to Tokyo – the first leg of his trip – Pompeo had said his aim was to “develop sufficient trust” between Washington and Pyongyang to inch towards peace and to set up “the next summit”.

Since the Singapore summit, the road towards warmer ties has been bumpy.

Trump scrapped a previously planned trip by his top diplomat to Pyongyang after what he said was insufficient progress towards implementing the terms of the Singapore declaration.

But the unorthodox US president has also since declared himself “in love” with Kim.

Washington and Pyongyang have sparred over the exact terms of their vaguely-worded agreement in Singapore, with the US pushing to maintain sanctions and pressure against the North until its “final, fully verified denuclearisation”.

Last month the North’s foreign minister told the United Nations there was “no way” his country would disarm first as long as tough US sanctions remain against his country.

Grand bargain

Analysts say Washington may now consider new options as China, Russia and South Korea seek to relax sanctions.

“North Korea took some steps towards denuclearisation and the US will face criticism from the international community if it continues to demand complete denuclearisation without any lifting of sanctions,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that Washington… may move in the direction of partial easing of sanctions based on progress in denuclearisation,” he said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has given a hint of what a grand bargain between the two countries could look like.

In an interview with the Washington Post, she said the North could agree to dismantle Yongbyon, its signature nuclear site. 

In exchange, the United States would declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War – which concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty – but North Korea would stop short of delivering an exhaustive list of its nuclear facilities, she said.

After Seoul, Pompeo ends his trip tomorrow in China, North Korea’s political and economic lifeline.

The Beijing stop could be tense as it comes days after US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a blistering speech accusing China of military aggression, commercial theft, rising human rights violations and electoral intervention against Trump.

© – AFP 2018 

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