Pompeo: ‘Real progress’ being made toward Trump-Kim summit
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the United States and North Korea have made “real progress” in the last three days toward setting the conditions that would allow President Trump and leader Kim Jong Un’s summit to move forward.
“Through these series of meetings, I am confident we’re moving in the right direction,” Pompeo said.
Still, Pompeo said he did not know if there would be a definitive decision on whether to have the summit Friday, when a North Korean delegation will travel to Washington to deliver Trump a letter from Kim.
Pompeo was speaking to reporters in New York City after meeting with Kim Yong Chol, a close confidant of Kim’s and the country’s top nuclear weapons negotiator.
Kim Yong Chol is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the United States since 2000, when Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok met with then-President Clinton amid a failed effort to broker a nuclear agreement.
Pompeo’s meeting was one of three this week to try to get the summit back on track after Trump canceled the meeting last week. U.S. teams are also in Singapore and the Korean Demilitarized Zone meeting with North Korean delegations.
The summit had been planned for June 12 in Singapore, but last week, Trump personally dictated a letter to Kim canceling it in light of Pyongyang’s “tremendous anger and open hostility.”
A day later, though, Trump said the summit could still take place as originally scheduled, setting off the flurry of diplomatic activity to revive the summit in less than two weeks.
At issue is a fundamental difference in what denuclearization means. The United States wants North Korea’s “complete, verifiable, irreversible” denuclearization, while Pyongyang decries “unilateral” disarmament without concrete security assurances.
Pompeo said he’s been “very clear” about the U.S. objective of denuclearization in exchange for a “brighter path” for North Korea.
“We expect both leaders to enter the summit at Singapore, if it proceeds, with their eyes wide open,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo’s meeting with Kim Yong Chol ended about two hours earlier than originally scheduled, but he said that was enough time to cover that day’s agenda.
“This is a difficult, difficult challenge,” he said. “Make no mistake about it. There remains a great deal of work to do. And we made progress here, as well as at the same time made progress in the other venues that conversations were taking place. We had all the time we needed today to make the progress that was achievable during our time here in New York City.”
Pompeo also said the ups and downs of the summit planning are unsurprising, adding it could take “days and weeks” to resolve all the issues.
“This is going to be a process that will take days and weeks to work our way through,” he said. “There will be tough moments. There will be difficult times. I’ve had some difficult conversations with them, as well. They’ve given it right back to me, too. We are decades into this challenge. So one not ought to be surprised or frightened or determined by moments where it looks like there are difficulties and challenges, things that can’t be bridged. Our mission is to bridge them so that we can achieve this historic outcome.”