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World & Nation

Pompeo and North Korean official to meet about possible Trump-Kim summit

Kim Yong Chol
North Korean official Kim Yong Chol prepares to leave the Beijing International Airport in Beijing on Jan. 17.
(Kyodo News)

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo is set to meet former North Korean spy chief Kim Yong Chol on Friday for talks aimed at finalizing a second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The State Department announced the late-morning meeting, and other administration officials indicated that it likely will be followed by Kim Yong Chol’s visit to the White House, where he could meet with Trump. Those officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui attended talks in Stockholm, according to Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Diana Kudhaib, who declined to give further details. Sweden’s TT news said the talks also included U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun and Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. Wallstrom was influential in securing the first Trump-Kim summit.

Sweden has had diplomatic relations with Pyongyang since 1973 and is one of only a few Western countries with an embassy there. It provides consular services for the United States. In March, Wallstrom held talks with her North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, in Stockholm, leading to the meeting between Trump and Kim in June in Singapore.

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Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit with Kim early this year and has exchanged multiple letters with the North Korean leader despite little tangible progress on a vague denuclearization agreement reached at their first meeting. Since then, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology.

At a conference of U.S. diplomats at the State Department on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged the lack of progress. He called the Trump-Kim dialogue “promising” but stressed that “we still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region.”

A planned meeting between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol in New York last November was called off abruptly. U.S. officials said at the time that North Korea had canceled the session.

A White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the two sides were “working to make progress” on the denuclearization goal and that Trump “looks forward to meeting Chairman Kim again at their second summit at a place and time yet to be determined.”

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The talks had stalled over North Korea’s refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them. The North has been demanding that the U.S. lift harsh sanctions and provide it with security guarantees before it takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.

Kim Jong Un expressed frustration in an annual New Year’s address over the lack of progress in negotiations. But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit “to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.


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