After ditching New Delhi, Pompeo makes fruitless visit to North Korea

Aaron Brown
July 8, 2018

North Korea has described high-level talks with a U.S. delegation led by secretary of state Mike Pompeo as "regrettable", as it accused Washington of trying to unilaterally pressure the country into abandoning its nuclear weapons.

Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol, dictator Kim Jong Un's top adviser and North Korea's former spy chief, exchanged pleasantries before the second meeting between the two countries.

The North's foreign ministry took exception to Pompeo's effort to secure concrete commitments to back Kim's promise, made at a summit last month with US President Donald Trump, to work towards the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

Trust between the two sides was now at a "dangerous stage" that could lead the country to falter in its commitment to give up nuclear weapons, KCNA said - adding that North Korea still trusts President Donald Trump.

"We had anticipated the USA side would come with a constructive idea, thinking we would take something in return", the North Korean statement said.

"The attitude and demands from the USA side during the high-level talks were nothing short of deeply regrettable", a spokesperson for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In practical terms, Pompeo said only that officials from both sides would meet on July 12 as a working group to discuss the repatriation of the remains of some USA soldiers killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Pompeo said North Korea had confirmed it meant to destroy a missile-engine testing facility and the two sides discussed the "modalities" of what that would look like.

But what "complete denuclearization" looks like is not yet clear, despite both sides agreeing to work towards it in a joint statement following June's summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.

In contrast with meetings in Pyongyang held in April and May, the Secretary of State did not meet with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un.

The top USA diplomat has said that Kim had repeatedly expressed in private conversations his desire to give up nuclear weapons for good.

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Pompeo, who had a day and a half of talks in Pyongyang, had sought to hammer out details on how to dismantle North Korea's nuclear programmes, such as a timeline to denuclearisation and a plan on declaring its related facilities.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met North Korean leaders in Pyongyang for two days of talks.

Mr Pompeo said he "slept just fine".

"Trump tried to sell this as a quickly achievable deal to denuclearise and now Pompeo and team are tasked with the impossible task of pushing forward on denuclearisation without a shared understanding with Pyongyang", said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo.

In the letter, Kim Jong Un expressed his "expectation and conviction" that the sentiments of good faith between the two leaders would be further consolidated through future dialogue, KCNA said. "So thinking about those discussions you might have not slept well last night".

Kim Yong Chol said earlier Saturday that he and Pompeo conducted "very serious discussions on very important matters yesterday" but later added that "there are things that I have to clarify".

"Clearly, we see some posturing particularly from the North Korean side using the leverage that they have, especially in the lead-up to Trump's visit to NATO and his big summit with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin in the coming week", said Hilary Mann Leverett, a former White House official.

"However, the attitude and stance the U.S. showed in the first high-level meeting was regrettable", he concluded.

A state department spokesperson said Mr Pompeo had been "very firm" in focusing on denuclearisation, as well as on security assurances and another important U.S. demand - the return of remains of USA service personnel from the Korean War.

Mr Pompeo said more talks are needed on both. North Korea committed at last month's summit to the "immediate repatriation" of remains already identified, but that hasn't happened yet.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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