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Pompeo to travel to N. Korea Thursday: White House

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will head to North Korea this week to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and discuss detailed steps for North Korea’s denuclearization, three weeks after the historic US-North Korea summit, the White House said.  

Pompeo will fly to North Korea on Thursday “to continue consultations and implement the forward progress” made by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their Singapore meeting, the State Department added in a statement.

After his third visit to North Korea, Pompeo will travel to Tokyo on Saturday, where he will discuss the “shared commitment to the final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea with Japanese and South Korean leaders the following day, the State Department said.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is expected to fly to Tokyo for a trilateral meeting with Pompeo and her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on the North Korea nuclear issue. 

The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the countries are “in consultation” to adjust the relevant schedule.

During Pompeo’s stay in Pyongyang, there is a possibility of Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon being there, fueling speculation over a possible trilateral meeting among Pompeo, Cho and their North Korean counterpart.

Cho left for Pyongyang on Tuesday to attend inter-Korean friendly basketball matches, leading a 100-strong delegation, which includes basketball players, coaches and media personnel as well as government officials.

Asked whether he plans to meet with Kim and Pompeo in Pyongyang ahead of his departure, Cho briefly told reporters, “Let’s see when we are there.”

It will be Pompeo’s first visit to Pyongyang since Trump and Kim held the summit in Singapore on June 12, when North Korea committed to work toward “complete denuclearization“ and the US promised a security guarantee. 

The joint statement, however, gave no details on how and when Pyongyang would relinquish its weapons. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AFP)

A US delegation led by Sung Kim, US ambassador to the Philippines, met with North Korean counterparts at the border village of Panmunjeom on Sunday to discuss next steps on the implementation of the summit declaration, the State Department said.

The top US diplomat’s visit comes amid growing doubts about Pyongyang’s willingness to abandon its nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile and tries to deceive the US about the number of its nuclear warheads and the existence of undisclosed facilities, the Washington Post reported, citing US intelligence officials.

The White House refused to confirm or deny reports that Kim’s regime has stepped up its nuclear program since the Trump summit. 

Experts say Pompeo‘s visit to Pyongyang would serve as a barometer for future negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. 

“To prove North Korea‘s willingness to denuclearize, at the minimum, there should be an agreement on the basic roadmap on denuclearization of North Korea -- the definition, timeframe and verification procedures and the ways to guarantee the North Korean regime,” said Park Won-gon, a professor at Handong Global University.   

Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, who has taken a hardline on the reclusive country, recently said in a media interview that the US has a plan that would lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a year. 

“I don’t think it could be done during Pompeo‘s visit to Pyongyang this time,” he said. “The realistic goals Pompeo can achieve from his visit would be making meetings with North Korean officials a regular thing and ensuring the return of the remains of US soldiers killed during the Korean War, which could help maintain the momentum of dialogue.”

North Korea and the US have showered each other with goodwill gestures following the Singapore summit. 

North Korea shut down its major Punggyeri nuclear site, released three American detainees and took steps to return the remains of the US soldiers, while the US suspended its joint military exercises with South Korea. 

By Ock Hyun-ju (