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Korean peninsula

White House says US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to head back to North Korea for new talks with Kim Jong-un

US and North Korean officials are reported to have met in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas over the weekend

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 5:04am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 7:13am

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head back to North Korea for new talks with Kim Jong-un about ending the stand-off over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, the White House said on Monday.

“To continue the ongoing and important work of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, Secretary Pompeo will be leaving for North Korea on July 5 to meet with the leader and the team,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo’s three-day visit to Pyongyang is “to continue consultations and implement the forward progress made by President Trump and Chairman Kim in Singapore”. Nauert did not elaborate on the detailed agenda of the travel.

The trip would have conflicted with a meeting between Pompeo and his Indian counterpart that was previously scheduled to take place in Washington on July 6. But a State Department official confirmed last Thursday that Pompeo had postponed that meeting.

Pompeo told lawmakers last week that he was confident that North Korea understood the scope of the US desire for complete denuclearisation, as the two countries negotiate after the leaders’ summit.

“We’ve been pretty unambiguous in our conversations about what we mean when we say complete denuclearisation,” Pompeo told a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on funding for the State Department.

US and North Korean officials are reported to have met in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas over the weekend, amid reports that Pyongyang has been stepping up its nuclear and missile programmes since last month’s summit.

Andrew Kim, the head of the CIA’s Korea department, and Sung Kim, a veteran negotiator who is now US ambassador to the Philippines, met North Korean counterparts at Panmunjom in the DMZ, according to South Korea’s Chosun newspaper.

Additional reporting by Zhenhua Lu

After the June 12 summit, Trump tweeted that “There is no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea, but in recent days, multiple leaks from the US intelligence assessment have suggested that the regime’s work on its nuclear and missile programme is not just continuing, but accelerating.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that North Korea had expanded a factory for manufacturing solid fuel ballistic missiles in Hamhung, based on satellite imagery analysed by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey, California.

The Diplomat cited intelligence officials as saying Pyongyang was also continuing work on mobile launchers for one its latest generation of ballistic missiles.

‘North Korea nuclear programme could be gone within a year,’ according to security adviser John Bolton

This follows a report by NBC News, also quoting multiple intelligence officials, saying that work had been stepped up at secret uranium enrichment sites.

North Korea has acknowledged running one enrichment plant at its nuclear complex at Yongbyon. However, in 2010 US intelligence found a site at a place called Kangson that it believes to be a covert parallel site. A third site is said to have been discovered more recently.

North Korea producing more nuclear fuel at multiple sites, according to US intelligence agencies

Officials from the Defence Intelligence Agency were quoted by CNN as saying they believe Kim has no intention of disarming, at least for the time being, and would seek to hide much of its programme.

Pompeo is expected to present the Pyongyang leadership with a demand for a full inventory of its nuclear and missile programmes and then a timetable for dismantling them.