U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Seoul on Monday that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has agreed to allow some international inspectors to monitor nuclear sites in the country, though it remains unclear which inspectors and when Pyongyang would allow them in.
Pompeo met with Kim on Sunday to discuss moving forward in U.S.-North Korean talks on denuclearization. The White House had scheduled a visit for Pompeo in August subsequently canceled after a series of belligerent statements out of the communist Kim regime.
“As soon as we get it logistically worked out, Chairman Kim said he’s ready to – ready to allow them [inspectors] to come in, and there’s a lot of logistics that will be required to execute that, but when we get them we’ll put them on the ground,” Pompeo told reporters in Seoul’s Grand Hyatt Hotel shortly before leaving for China. He noted that at least one site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, was on the list of permissible inspection sites for the North Koreans.
North Korean authorities claimed to have destroyed the entirety of the Punggye-ri site, where the military has executed all of its nuclear tests, in May. Pyongyang invited international journalists to witness the detonation of explosions at the site but banned any nuclear scientists or individuals with documented nuclear weapons expertise from attending the event, leaving many to question whether its destruction was legitimate.
Journalists asked Pompeo about a second key nuclear site, the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility, which Kim reportedly told leftist South Korean President he would be open to allowing inspectors in if the United States makes unspecified “corresponding measures.”
“We’re not going to talk about where we are in these negotiations except for things we have agreed to release with the North Koreans,” Pompeo said on the matter. He also refused to specify whether Kim agreed to the presence of international inspectors from any particular country or organization at nuclear sites. The International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, would likely be the most universally accepted group to engage in inspections if invited; North Korea has not extended any invitations to the IAEA.
Pompeo and Kim reportedly met for about five hours on Sunday to discuss the logistics of implementing provisions of the Singapore Declaration, the joint statement Kim and President Donald Trump signed in June. Outside of Kim agreeing to return the remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War, the Singapore Declaration only vaguely asserted the will of both sides to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, a term North Korea has used in the past to mean the eviction of American soldiers from South Korea. North Korea reportedly pressured Pompeo to get Washington to agree to sign a declaration ending the Korean War, technically ongoing since 1950. Such a peace declaration would force the United States to either relocate its troops monitoring the Korean border or find another reason for stationing them there.
Pompeo and Kim reportedly also agreed on a second summit between Kim and Trump, though they did not reportedly make progress on where and when it would take place. South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong told reporters Monday that Seoul expects that meeting to occur “in the near future,” according to the Yonhap News Service.
“A second summit between the U.S. and North Korea is likely to be held in the near future. Negotiations over denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula are expected to gain big traction,” Chung reportedly said.
A key sign that North Korea believed Pompeo’s visit to be fruitful is that the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the government propaganda service, covered it favorably.
“Kim Jong Un, Supreme Leader of our party, state and army, warmly greeted Mike Pompeo and gladly exchanged greetings and had a photo taken with him at the Paekhwawon State Guesthouse,” North Korean state media claimed on Monday.
“He warmly welcomed the U.S. secretary of State’s visit to the DPRK [North Korea] and spoke highly of him, recalling how he worked energetically for the historic DPRK-U.S. summit and the development of relations between the two countries while visiting Pyongyang several times,” KCNA noted, adding that Kim “expressed his gratitude to President Trump for making sincere effort to this end, asking Mike Pompeo to convey his regards to Trump.”