Pompeo touts progress toward ‘expected’ North Korea summit

Pompeo touts progress toward ‘expected’ North Korea summit

By Luke Vargas   
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs the press after a series of meetings in New York with North Korean official Kim Yong Chol. May 31, 2018. Photo: Luke Vargas/Talk Media News
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs the press on Thursday after a series of meetings in New York with North Korean official Kim Yong Chol. (Luke Vargas/TMN)

The Secretary of State said it wasn't in North Korea or America's interest to send President Trump and Kim Jong Un to Singapore unless there's high likelihood of agreeing to a nuclear deal.

NEW YORK — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reported “real progress” made in the past 72 hours toward holding a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore next month, saying a series of meetings in New York on Wednesday and Thursday had increased the likelihood of successful diplomatic engagement.

“I believe they are contemplating a path forward where they can make a strategic shift — one that their country has not been prepared to make before,” Pompeo said. “They’ll have to choose a path that is fundamentally different than the one that their country has proceeded on for decades.”

Pompeo briefed the press at Manhattan’s Palace Hotel after two-and-a-half hours of morning meetings with a North Korean delegation that included Kim  Yong Chul, a senior Workers Party official believed to be close to Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, foreign ministry officer Choe Kang Il and propaganda official Kim Song Hye.

A former CIA chief during the first year of the Trump administration, Pompeo was joined in his New York meetings by top officials from the intelligence agency. Earlier this week, NBC News reported that a new CIA analysis of North Korea concluded there was little chance the nation would surrender a nuclear weapons program seen as critical for the country’s survival.

Pompeo made no mention of that report, saying only that it remained a U.S. priority that North Korea surrender the entirety of its nuclear program. That concept, known by the acronym CVID, entails complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

Though he refused to spell out in detail what the U.S. might be willing to provide to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization, he did allude to a possible military drawdown and a prosperous economic future that could await the country.

“There is a brighter path for North Korea. We envision a strong, connected and secure, prosperous North Korea that maintains its cultural heritage but is integrated into the community of nations,” he said.

China and South Korea are said to have very different ideas about North Korea’s economic development, with the former preferring that the Kim regime maintain strict economic control while the latter favors a gradual shift to a capitalist economy more integrated with South Korea.

But Pompeo brushed aside those possible differences, claiming “there is no daylight between the South Koreans, the Japanese and the United States with respect to our approach with how we resolve this issue with North Korea.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (center) and North Korean official Kim Yong Chol look out over the Manhattan skyline during a dinner meeting on May 30, 2018. Coutesy: State Department
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, and North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, left, look out over the Manhattan skyline during a dinner meeting on Wednesday. (Courtesy: State Department)

Three-Track Diplomacy

With less than two weeks to go before a possible Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, diplomatic engagement between the U.S. and North Korea now appears to be operating on three parallel tracks on opposite sides of the globe.

High-level talks between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol — both of whom have hand-delivered messages between their respective heads of states — began two months ago during Pompeo’s first visit to North Korea and are likely to continue.

Meanwhile, technical discussions concerning North Korea’s nuclear program and American security guarantees are being conducted at the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. Those talks involve U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, National Security Council Korea expert Allison Hooker and Randall Schriver, the Pentagon’s top official on Asia-Pacific issues.

A final U.S. team primarily comprised of State Department officials is being led by White House deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin in Singapore, and is tasked with sorting through protocol and security issues pertaining to a possible summit.

While the breadth of that diplomatic activity suggests a June 12 summit is likely to go ahead as planned, Pompeo said Thursday that U.S. and North Korean officials won’t waste Trump and Kim’s time with a meeting if there’s little chance of reaching agreement.

“We’ve made real progress in the last 72 hours toward setting the conditions. The conditions are putting President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a place where we think there can be real progress made by the two of them meeting,” he said.

“It does no good if we’re in a place where we don’t think there’s real opportunity to place them together.”

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