Pompeo North Korea Trip Called Off Because U.S. 'Not Making Sufficient Progress'

In this May 9, 2018, photo provided by the North Korean government, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a meeting at Workers' Party of Korea headquarters in Pyongyang. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the new special envoy to North Korea appointed Thursday won’t be heading to Pyongyang next week after all to pick up talks with Kim Jong-un.

Pompeo sounded optimistic about the planned trip while introducing special representative Stephen Biegun, a Ford Motor Co. executive, at the State Department on Thursday. “I’m fully confident that he will be able to lead our mission in ensuring a secure future for the American people and – we hope – a far brighter future for the people of North Korea,” he said.

At the State Department briefing Thursday, press secretary Heather Nauert previewed the talks and said the goal of denuclearization had not changed. “We continue to have conversations with them. Much of those conversations you know I will not be detailing for you here from this podium,” she said. “The conversations continue to take place.”

But today President Trump tweeted, “I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place).”

He added a salutation for the dictator: “Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved. In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!”

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report this week that “the continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern.”

“As the agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” the UN watchdog said.

The same day that report came out, Trump told Reuters “a lot of good things are happening” with North Korea.

“I like him. He likes me,” he said. “There’s no ballistic missiles going up, there’s a lot of silence … I have very good personal relations with Chairman Kim, and I think that’s what holds it together.”

The official Korean Central News Agency said on Aug. 18, “The present deadlock of the DPRK-U.S. relations demands a bold decision on the part of President Trump.”