U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began his third trip to Pyongyang on Friday, where he is expected to hold talks on nuclear issues with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un and other senior officials.
Pompeo and his team of U.S. negotiators arrived in Pyongyang just before noon, where he was met by vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Yong Chol, foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, and director of department at the State Affairs Commission and Kim Jong Un’s chief secretary Kim Chang Son.
A statement from the Secretary of State released before his arrival in the DPRK capital said the visit would see him “fill in some details” on the commitments outlined in the June 12 agreement and “continue the momentum towards implementation.”
Vice chairman Kim met the previous day in Pyongyang with South Korean Minister of Unification Cho Myoung-gyon, who was in town for a series of inter-Korean friendly basketball matches.
Members of the press pool accompanying Pompeo reported that the Secretary of State sat down with Kim Yong Chol, Choe Kang Il, who serves as deputy director general for North American affairs at the DPRK foreign ministry, and other officials mid-afternoon local time.
.@SecPompeo and Kim Jong Un’s no 2 Kim Yong Chol just sat down for what will likely be an hours long meeting. If all goes well, the Secretary of state will likely head on to meet with Kim Jong Un. See pics from inside the guest house where the meetings are taking place. pic.twitter.com/tDf3D45iae
— Tara Palmeri (@tarapalmeri) July 6, 2018
Pompeo is expected to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later in the day, likely to be seeking deliverables on the concessions outlined in last month’s DPRK-U.S. agreement.
Denuclearization, in particular, will be high on his agenda, amid U.S. intelligence leaks suggesting North Korea has so far not been negotiating in good faith and is continuing to develop its nuclear facilities.
Pompeo said just before arriving in Pyongyang that he and President Trump had spoken over the phone and agreed that “Chairman Kim sees a different, brighter future for the people of North Korea.”
The agreement signed between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 committed the two sides to improve their relations, work towards denuclearization, and recover the remains of U.S. soldiers killed during the Korean War.
North Korea has yet to deliver these remains or provide evidence of further denuclearization steps taken following the summit.
Pyongyang on Friday also pushed back against recent U.S. criticism of the country’s human rights record, in a commentary by the state-run Uriminzokkiri outlet referring to it as “provocative” and a potential “obstacle” to further negotiations.
Regarding fears that the U.S. may have softened its expectations in the denuclearization process, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert – who is accompanying Pompeo to Pyongyang – said their policy had not changed and that they are “committed to a denuclearized North Korea.”
President Trump offered a clue of his expectations of the meeting earlier on Thursday, saying that if progress is not made with North Korea, “we’ll go back to the other way” – a possible reference to his administration’s more hardline stance prior to the current round of negotiations.
Other negotiators traveling with Pompeo include Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian & Pacific Affairs Alex Wong, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver, and Korea specialist and member of the White House National Security Council Allison Hooker.
U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim and head of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center Andrew Kim – both of whom attended working-level talks with DPRK officials at Panmunjom last weekend – are expected to join the team in Pyongyang separately.
Schriver and Hooker were also part of the team led by Ambassador Kim which frequently met the North Koreans at Panmunjom in the lead up to the June 12 summit.
The CIA’s Andrew Kim joined Pompeo on his previous trips to Pyongyang as well as in New York when Kim Yong Chol traveled there in May.
Secretary Pompeo will depart Pyongyang Saturday morning for Tokyo, where he is expected to meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono to discuss the outcomes of his talks in North Korea.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: U.S. State Department
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