US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that he expects to see a "good marker" on the path to achieving North Korea's denuclearization at the end of next month.
The two sides are planning to hold a second summit late next month to discuss the next steps in implementing the accord reached by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last year.
At the first summit in Singapore in June, Kim committed to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees for his regime.
"I believe that at the end of February we'll have another good marker along the way," Pompeo said in video remarks to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Last week's visit to Washington by Kim's close aide, Kim Yong-chol, yielded "further progress" in discussions, including through a meeting between US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and his "newly designated counterpart," Pompeo said.
Biegun and his North Korean counterpart discussed "some of the complicated issues towards achieving what the two leaders laid out back last June in Singapore," he added.
Biegun flew to Sweden over the weekend to hold talks with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui on planning for the next summit.
"Again, a little bit more progress," Pompeo said of those discussions, adding that "there remains an awful lot of work to do."
But "good things" have already happened, he said, pointing to North Korea's suspension of nuclear and missile tests since late 2017.
"There are many steps yet along the way towards achieving the denuclearization that was laid out in Singapore and in achieving the security and stability and peace on the (Korean) peninsula that the two leaders agreed to as well," Pompeo said. "We're determined to work towards achieving that."
The secretary held out the prospect of private sector investment in the North, which is currently under tough economic sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs.
"There's not much role for the private sector today, but if we're successful, if we can make a substantial step towards achieving the denuclearization and create the right conditions, it'll be the private sector that sits there, looming in the background," he said.
North Korea needs everything from power to infrastructure, and while there will be a "government component," the private sector's contributions will be critical to achieve the North's economic growth and ultimately stability.
"The specter of private sector companies who are prepared to invest in North Korea and to assist North Korea if we're able to achieve that full denuclearization that I know the entire world wants, the private sector will be an important player in achieving the final elements of the agreement as well," Pompeo said. (Yonhap)