Mike Pompeo says Korea summit talks are ‘moving in right direction’ but meeting still isn’t confirmed
Pompeo’s talks in New York with North Korea’s vice-chairman are to firm ground rules for the proposed Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that talks aimed at setting up a historic summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were “moving in the right direction”, but that they had not yet led to a final agreement to proceed with the meeting.
“We made real progress in the last 72 hours towards setting conditions” needed to finalise plans for a Trump-Kim meeting, tentatively planned for June 12 in Singapore, Pompeo said in a briefing at the Lotte New York Palace hotel, part of the South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group.
The negotiations in New York, in conjunction with earlier meetings in Singapore and at the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas, Pompeo said, were “putting President Trump and Kim Jong-un in a place where we think there could be real progress made”.
Pompeo said that North Korean Vice-Chairman Kim Yong-chol, with whom he had negotiated on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, would travel to Washington on Friday to deliver a letter from Kim Jong-un to Trump.
Asked whether a summit meeting would be confirmed after that delivery, Pompeo said he did not know.
Earlier in the day, Trump told reporters in Washington that Pompeo’s meetings with Kim, North Korea’s former military intelligence chief whom the State Department describes as Kim Jong-un’s “point person”, had been going “very well”.
He added, “I look forward to seeing what’s in the letter.”
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 31, 2018
Later, aboard Air Force One, Trump told Reuters that it might take more than one meeting to seal a denuclearisation deal and that he would like North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme as quickly as possible under any agreement.
“I’d like to see it done in one meeting,” he said. “But oftentimes that’s not the way deals work. There’s a very good chance that it won’t be done in one meeting or two meetings or three meetings. But it’ll get done at some point.”
It was not clear if Trump meant he would need a second summit with Kim to reach the US goal of persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear arms, or if he believed more lower-level talks were needed.
Kim Yong-chol arrived in New York on Wednesday on a flight from Beijing for meetings with Pompeo to discuss how the two sides would address Washington’s demand that Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons.
On his Twitter account, Pompeo posted a series of photographs from meetings with Kim on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.
North Korea conducted a series of missile tests and nuclear detonations last year, which led to the imposition of additional United Nations Security Council resolutions meant to isolate the country economically.
On December 22, the UN body unanimously imposed the most recent set of sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s November 29 test launch of a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15, which military analysts have said can reach cities in the US.
Pompeo said it may take “days and weeks” for Pyongyang to agree to the US demand of complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation, sometimes referred to as “CVID”.
“There’s a long history where North Korea has viewed its nuclear programme as providing security,” he said. “The real threat to their security is continuing to hold on to their nuclear weapons programme.
“I believe they are contemplating a path forward to make a decision that the country has not been prepared to make before. They’ll have to choose a path that is fundamentally different.”
Pyongyang, which declared in November that it completed its mission of becoming a nuclear force, has a different view of denuclearisation and remains deeply concerned that abandoning its deterrent would leave it vulnerable, especially while the US maintains a military presence in South Korea.
Sue Mi Terry, a Korean expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that Pompeo and Kim were “obviously trying to figure out if the US and North Korea can bridge the gap on the two sides’ very different definitions of denuclearisation”.
North Korea, Terry said, has always defined it as the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, which would include a security guarantee for the region and the end of hostile policies by the US, including its alliance with South Korea and the deployment of US troops on the peninsula.
Terry, a former Korea analyst for the CIA, warned that it would be a “disaster” if Trump and Kim Jong-un were surprised by their differences at a summit meeting and could not come to “even a remotest agreement” on what denuclearisation means.
That meeting looked uncertain last week, after a turbulent few days of diplomatic brinkmanship that culminated in a letter by Trump to Kim, saying he was abandoning the summit because of Pyongyang’s “open hostility” towards US Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump then said on Friday that his administration remained in contact with North Korea and that the June 12 meeting might still take place.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that the White House was preparing for the meeting to take place as originally planned.