Reports in South Korean media, citing a Korean lawmaker speaking on national radio, reported Thursday that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could be visiting North Korea again as soon as this weekend.
Pompeo met with dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore last week beside U.S. President Donald Trump, and most recently visited Pyongyang in late May to discuss planning for the summit between Kim and Trump. Following the summit, Pompeo traveled to South Korea and China to brief the leadership of those countries on how the meeting between the two heads of state went. Kim Jong-un himself visited Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the summit with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
At Thursday’s State Department press briefing, spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that Pompeo “will be meeting with them [the North Koreans] and talking with them at the earliest possible date.” She did not offer a date, however, instead telling reporters, “We don’t have any meetings or travel to announce at this time.”
South Korean lawmaker Park Jie-won reportedly told a South Korean radio program that the time for such a meeting would be very soon. According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, Park predicted that discussions between Pyongyang and Washington are “expected to accelerate probably this weekend or next week.” He noted that Pompeo had planned to visit sooner, but Kim Jong-un made a surprise trip to China on Tuesday, forcing a delay.
Park is a member of the Party for Democracy and Peace, an opposition party to the ruling Democratic Party.
Trump and Kim agreed during the summit to a series of provisions, dubbed the Singapore Declaration, including proactively working towards the complete – but not verifiable or irreversible – denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the return of remains of American prisoners of war/missing in action from the Korean War, which is technically still ongoing. During a rally on Wednesday, Trump told supporters that Pyongyang had returned 200 remains of American soldiers.
“We got back our great fallen heroes, the remains, in fact, today already 200 have been sent back,” Trump said. The Pentagon has not confirmed the number of remains returned, and forensics experts will likely need extended studying of the remains to confirm their identity.
On the issue of denuclearization, North Korean officials announced the shutdown of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in May, though they barred experts from the grounds to confirm that the site was no longer usable. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that he had no details of the plan to confirm that North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons program no longer exists.
The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point,” Mattis noted.
Pompeo’s visit would presumably be the first step in such detailed discussions.