Pompeo backs away from denuclearization goal for North Korea

Korean Central News Agency  Korea News Service via AP File

Korean Central News Agency Korea News Service via AP File

Pompeo will also travel to Japan, South Korea and China from October 6-8, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

The U.S. Department of State announced Tuesday that on his fourth visit to Pyongyang, Pompeo will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Both Pompeo and Trump spoke about a second North Korean summit in positive terms last week in NY, while attending the United Nations General Assembly.

US officials have said the sanctions will remain in place until North Korea has "fully" and "verifiably" denuclearized.

But the countries appear to differ on what the corresponding measures should be.

North Korea says it first wants relief from punishing global sanctions.

Asked about sanctions, Nauert told reporters, "Our policy has not changed".

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"We want it fast, but we're not going to play the time game", he said, adding that his reference last month to 2021 was repeating a comment made by the North and South Korean leaders at a summit last month in Pyongyang.

President Donald Trump and Kim agreed to denuclearization only in vague terms at their summit in Singapore, the first meeting between leaders of the US and North Korea.

"I don't think Pompeo's trip, Saturday, would have been possible unless the two countries had a coordinated agenda regarding denuclearization", said Cho Sung-ryul, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy. Trump then called off Pompeo's plan to travel to Pyongyang in August.

President Moon Jae-in is committed to declaring an end to the war by December and the U.S.

Pompeo's last trip to North Korea, in July, did not go well.

"I think the United States might have agreed to declare an end to the Korean War, but is wrangling with North Korea over the extent of (the) inspection the North should accept in the process of dismantling the Yongbyon compound", said Shin Beom-chul, a senior researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Wednesday's Washington Post quoted South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha as saying in an interview that to break the stalemate, Washington should hold off on its long-standing demand for an inventory of North Korea's weapons programs and agree to an end-of-war declaration in return for a North Korean pledge to dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear site.

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