Pompeo seeks clarity in denuclearization talks with NKorea

REUTERS  Joshua Roberts

REUTERS Joshua Roberts

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo finished two days of talks with senior North Korean officials in Pyongyang on Saturday, telling reporters that the two countries agreed to continue discussions on denuclearization and the repatriation of the remains of Americans killed during the Korean War.

North Korea has said talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are "regrettable".

The North's relatively harsh tone contrasts somewhat with what Pompeo said after holding talks with Kim Yong-chol, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, for two straight days from Friday, though he also admitted that there was "more work to be done".

He admitted "there's still more work to be done" in other areas.

Pompeo could point to no concrete achievement from the talks, aside from an agreement for the two sides to meet again around July 12 in Panmunjom, the border village between the two Koreas, to discuss returning the remains of U.S. soldiers from the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Nauert did confirm Saturday that a letter from Trump to Kim had been delivered to North Korean officials amid a terse statement from Pyongyang slamming USA officials over what it said were calls for unilateral denuclearization.

The spokesman said that the first high-level talks between the two countries following the summit have failed to consolidate mutual trust, only to risk undermining the North's commitment to denuclearization.

Following last month's summit in Singapore, senior US and North Korean diplomats struggled to maintain basic communication, leading to concerns that the talks would require Pompeo, who has many other responsibilities, to devote an unmanageable amount of time on the Korea issue.

It was uncertain whether Pompeo would meet with Kim Jong Un as he did on his previous trips before heading later in the day for Tokyo. Long gas lines forming in North Korea.

It is the first time he has visited North Korea since a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

According to The Washington Post, Pompeo left Saturday without meeting with Kim Jong Un, but he called the talks productive. "I expect that the DPRK is ready to do the same", Pompeo said, using the initials for North Korea's official name.

As Mr. Pompeo departed Pyongyang, he told reporter that the talks achieved progress "on nearly all of the central issues" in the talks, including on setting a timeline for its denuclearisation, though more work remained to be done.

KCNA said in addition to the missile engine site and return of remains of US soldiers, the North offered to discuss declaring an end to war marking next month's anniversary of the armistice agreement, but the USA side showed little interest, giving "certain conditions and excuses". Yet Pompeo himself had earlier said he envisioned that occurring in about two and a half years, by the end of Trump's term, and Nauert later said the USA wasn't putting a timeline on the process. The report said Trump signed the CD and instructed Pompeo to deliver it with the personal letter.

The lack of a meeting with Kim, and North Korea's description of the talks, raise concerns about the future of denuclearization. Kim responded that "there are things that I have to clarify as well".

Since returning from the summit, Trump has made it clear that he believes he has the problem of North Korea's nuclear capacity solved and even suspended joint U.S.

Pompeo said he spent "a good deal of time" discussing a denuclearisation timeline and the declaration of the North's nuclear and missile facilities.

"We had many hours of productive conversations", he said.

Among Pompeo's delegation were seasoned North Korea negotiators including National Security Council official Allison Hooker, Central Intelligence Agency officer Andy Kim and Sung Kim, the United States ambassador to the Philippines.

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