Wrapping up a four-day trip to Pyongyang and Seoul in Beijing today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. and North Korea are “pretty close” to agreeing on logistics for a second summit between dictator Kim Jong-un and President Trump.
“Both the leaders believe there’s real progress that can be made, substantive progress that can be made at the next summit, and so we’re going to get it at a time that works for each of the two leaders in a place that works for both of them,” he told reporters before leaving South Korea. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’ll get there.”
Pompeo said the two sides agreed to have “more frequent and higher-level working group discussions than we’ve had in some time on a set of issues” and stressed that “ultimately some of these big, difficult issues have to be resolved by the nations’ most senior leaders, and we’re hoping to have those presented in a way that the two leaders can resolve them when they get together.”
North Korea has said they’d like to see Trump come meet Kim in Pyongyang; Pompeo said he couldn’t answer whether that proposal has been ruled out.
The official Korean Central News Agency vaguely said that Kim “expressed satisfaction over the productive and wonderful talks with Mike Pompeo at which mutual stands were fully understood and opinions exchanged.”
KCNA said “there was an agreement on the issue of holding the working negotiation for the second DPRK-U.S. summit talks as early as possible, and relevant procedure-related issues and ways were also discussed.”
Pompeo said he’s “hopeful” international inspectors would soon be allowed on select sites associated with North Korea’s missile and nuclear program, and didn’t comment on Pyongyang’s insistence that inspectors would be allowed into the Yongbyon site only if the U.S. took corresponding measures.
North K0rea’s definition of nuclear disarmament to this date has included an insistence that the U.S. also disarm.
Trump said at a campaign rally late last month that he likes Kim, adding, “We fell in love, OK? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”
Pompeo had separate meetings today with Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi and State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing.
He was asked in his Seoul exchange with reporters whether he’s “worried about the Chinese and Russians’ meeting with North Korea in any way hurting the advancement that you can make in your discussions with North Korea.”
“Chairman Kim was very clear yesterday in our conversation about the things that we need to do between the United States and the DPRK,” Pompeo described. “That’s what we’re focused on.”
“There are many countries that have a deep interest – China, others, Russia – that have deep interests in this set of issues,” he added later, stating the U.S. will be “making sure that we are communicating well, fully coordinated, we’re taking on information from them so that we don’t have disconnects between our allies and others with interests in making sure that denuclearization proceeds as quickly as possible.”