Sunday 23 September 2018

Pompeo seeks clarity in nuclear talks with North Korea

The US secretary of state was on his third trip to Pyongyang since April.

Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

By Andrew Harnik and Matthew Lee

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has held a second day of talks with senior North Korean officials, with both sides saying they need clarity on the parameters of an agreement to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

On his third trip to Pyongyang since April and his first since last month’s historic summit between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Mr Pompeo met Kim Yong Chol, a senior ruling party official.

Both men said they needed to “clarify” certain elements of their previous discussions, but provided no detail. Mr Pompeo left Pyongyang for Japan on Saturday afternoon but it was not clear if he had met leader Kim Jong Un, as had been expected.

ipanews_442a8545-752e-4295-8ea9-3eae07e60739_embedded237423463
Mike Pompeo is greeted by Kim Yong Chol (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Unlike his previous visits, which have been one-day affairs, Mr Pompeo spent the night at a government guest house in Pyongyang after a three-hour dinner with Kim Yong Chol, something the North Korean official alluded to in comments as they began their talks.

“We did have very serious discussion on very important matters yesterday,” Mr Kim said. “So, thinking about those discussions you might have not slept well last night.”

Mr Pompeo, who spoke with Mr Trump, national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff John Kelly by secure phone before starting Saturday’s session, replied that he “slept just fine.”

He added that the Trump administration was committed to reaching a deal under which North Korea would denuclearise and realise economic benefits in return.

Mr Kim later said that “there are things that I have to clarify” to which Mr Pompeo responded: “There are things that I have to clarify as well.”

There was no immediate explanation of what needed to be clarified but the two sides have been struggling to specify what exactly “denuclearisation” would entail and how it could be verified to the satisfaction of the US.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that the US remains “very firm” in its stance that three basic goals be met: complete denuclearisation of North Korea, security assurances, and the repatriation of remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean war.

“Our policy hasn’t changed,” she said when asked why US officials appear in public comments to have backed away from early demands that an agreement must cover “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation”.

“Our expectation is exactly what the president and Kim Jong Un jointly agreed to in Singapore, and that is the denuclearisation of North Korea,” Ms Nauert said, adding that “progress” towards that goal has been made. She did not elaborate.

Mr Pompeo and Mr Kim met for nearly three hours on Friday and then had dinner amid growing scepticism over how serious Kim Jong Un is about giving up his nuclear arsenal and translating the upbeat rhetoric following his June 12 summit with Mr Trump into concrete action.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News