- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Pyongyang later this week for denuclearization talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the White House announced Monday, hoping to show new progress nearly a month after the Singapore summit between President Trump and Mr. Kim.

Mr. Pompeo will travel Thursday to Pyongyang hoping to add concrete details to the pledge Mr. Kim made last month to denuclearize the divided Korean Peninsula.

The slow pace of developments in North Korea since the summit — and new commercial satellite images showing the community country continuing work at a nuclear reactor and a missile factor — have raised fresh doubts about how the North is interpreting the brief agreement signed in Singapore, even as Mr. Trump has tweeted that the summit accord meant the nuclear threat was “over.” U.S. intelligence agencies also have concluded that the North is far from ready to surrender its nuclear arsenal, but the White House said there was reason for optimism.

“We are continuing to make progress,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “We had good meetings yesterday.”

White House National Security Adviser John R. Bolton said Sunday that the administration favors an ambitious one-year schedule to fully dismantle North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, a timeline many experts think would be hard for the North to meet, given the technical and verification issues involved. But Mr. Bolton, a longtime hawk on Pyongyang before joining the White House this spring, also said that U.S. negotiators have no illusions about Pyongyang’s history of double-crosses and broken promises in past nuclear talks.

The visit by Mr. Pompeo will be the first face-to-face denuclearization talks between top official from the two countries since the Singapore summit, where the North committed to ending its nuclear weapons and missile programs in exchange for U.S. security guarantees. It will be Mr. Pompeo’s third meeting with Mr. Kim. They met twice in Pyongyang prior to the summit, and both also participated in a bilateral meeting in Singapore.

Mr. Pompeo’s arrival in North Korea will be the first stop in an eight-day tour that continues to Japan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia. The secretary of state then will join Mr. Trump at the June 10-12 NATO summit in Brussels.

The Trump administration has insisted that harsh economic sanctions to isolate the North will remain in place until Pyongyang completely gives up its nuclear arsenal, but there are signs that some of the North’s neighbors aren’t waiting that long.

North and South Korean officials revealed Monday that they are now looking to implement a “peace and co-prosperity” framework before Mr. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in meet at a summit this fall.

Following Mr. Trump’s lead, South Korea insists it is keeping its sanctions in place until Pyongyang takes verifiable steps toward giving up nuclear weapons, but Seoul is also busily preparing for the day when the economic barriers come down.

“The essence of prosperity on the Korean Peninsula would be inter-Korean economic cooperation [but] carrying out this needs to be done while keeping sanctions on North Korea. The international community’s stance is that sanctions can only be lifted after denuclearization takes place,” said a high-level South Korea ministry official on Monday.

Last week, North and South Korean officials discussed a potential railway between the two countries in order to streamline cross-border commerce and transit.

The two sides are working on restoring military communication lines, and an inter-Korean basketball game — a favorite sport of Mr. Kim — is planned for this week.

“The countries have made preparations and are entering the stage of follow-up talks. We will make efforts so that inter-Korean relations and relations between North Korea and the U.S. become a virtuous cycle,” said South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon.


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