U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet with a top North Korean official next week as they seek to arrange a second summit between the two countries’ leaders, according to a South Korean report.
The meeting would likely take place on the U.S. East Coast, possibly in New York or Washington, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing a South Korean diplomatic source. The source said the meeting, which had originally been planned for the end of this month, would likely take place after the Nov. 6 midterm elections in the United States.
Asked about the report, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman told The Japan Times only that it had “no meetings to announce” at this time.
Any meeting would likely see Pompeo’s interlocutor as Kim Yong Chol, the hard-line, right-hand man of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Pompeo last met Kim Yong Chol in New York in May ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s landmark June summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Kim Yong Chol later traveled to the White House in Washington, hand delivering a letter from the North Korean leader to Trump.
Trump has said he expects to meet the North Korean leader after the elections in one of three or four locations. The exact timing of the second summit remains unclear, though U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has said it could happen early next year.
Trump has repeatedly boasted about what he says are North Korean steps toward denuclearization, hailing the absence of missile or nuclear tests this year and the return of remains of U.S. service members killed in the 1950-53 Korean War as “incredible progress.”
In an interview on Fox News that aired Monday, Trump also claimed without evidence that if his successor, President Barack Obama, had stayed in office another year, there would have been “a war with North Korea.”
Critics have assailed Trump for his claims, saying there is no evidence the North has taken significant steps toward denuclearization, despite the president’s claim to the contrary.
The North is seeking an easing of tough international sanctions and a formal declaration ending the Korean War, which was halted in an armistice, leaving the U.S. and North still technically in a state of war.
Washington’s denuclearization talks with Pyongyang have hit a wall in the more than four months since the first Kim-Trump summit, where the North Korean leader agreed to a vaguely worded 1½-page joint statement to “work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” while Trump committed to “provide security guarantees” to the regime.
But Trump’s openness to another meeting with Kim has kept negotiations alive. Significant obstacles, however, appear to remain.
In a separate report published Monday citing a top adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Yonhap said Pyongyang would not provide a list of its nuclear facilities so long as the U.S. maintains what Pyongyang calls a “hostile policy” toward the country.
Moon Chung-in, a special presidential adviser for unification, diplomacy and national security affairs, said that he recently heard a top-ranking North Korean official expressing reluctance to comply with the U.S. demand that the North submit a list of nuclear sites and accept an international nuclear inspection prior to a declaration to end the Korean War.
Moon also called for a flexible stance, instead of a rigid and one-sided approach, in negotiations with North Korea.
“On my recent trip to Pyongyang, I said to a high-ranking North Korean official that the North can build trust with the U.S. after providing its nuclear program list, accepting international nuclear inspection and signing an end-of-war declaration,” he was quoted as saying.
“But the North’s position was clear. The official told me his country cannot present a list of nuclear facilities and materials due to hostility from the U.S.”
The top South Korean adviser, who has been known to float trial balloons from the Moon administration, reportedly concurred with the North’s position that an end-of-war declaration and nonaggression treaty should be signed ahead of any list detailing its nuclear program and international inspections regime.