Mike Pompeo Lands in North Korea to ‘Fill in Some Details’ on Nuclear Talks

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from left, is greeted by North Korean Director of the United Front Department Kim Yong Chol, center, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, second from right, as he arrives at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, July 6, 2018. …
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool

American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has landed in Pyongyang, North Korea, for discussions on filling in details deliberately left vague in the declaration U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un signed following their first meeting in Singapore.

North Korea agreed to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” in the Singapore declaration but has yet to specify how it defines the term. The United States appears to have shifted its definition from complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID) to “final, fully-verified dismantlement (FFVD),” according to the South Korean news outlet Yonhap.

Defining denuclearization and beginning a conversation on how best to make it happen are the main objectives of Pompeo’s visit, he told reporters in Japan, before switching flights to land in the North Korean capital.

“On this trip I’m seeking to fill in some details on those commitments and continue the momentum toward implementation of what the two leaders promised each other and the world,” Pompeo reportedly said, according to Yonhap.

Pompeo will also likely have to address reports that North Korea, rather than facilitating the dismantling of its illegal nuclear weapons program, has continued manufacturing rockets and operating nuclear facilities. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported Friday that satellite evidence suggests that the Kim regime has continued “operating the Yongbyon nuclear facility that produces fissile material for bombs and a missile engine test site in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province which leader Kim Jong-un has promised to dismantle.”

“The regime keeps improving its nuclear development program in a bid to stand up to the U.S., which continues the around-the-clock surveillance,” an unnamed “diplomatic source” reportedly told the newspaper. In addition to those facilities, Chosun Ilbo quotes an opposition party leader as saying he received evidence that North Korea is attempting to build a submarine with ballistic missile capabilities.

Also on the docket is a conversation regarding remains of American soldiers that North Korea still possesses from the active period of the Korean War between 1950-1953. All sides in the war signed an armistice in 1953, ending physical hostilities, but North and South Korea remain technically at war, as well as North Korea and the United States. Kim Jong-un agreed to repatriate the remains in the text of the Singapore Declaration.

At press time, Pompeo appears to have completed his first meeting with North Korean officials, tweeting that he was “proud” of the American diplomatic team’s efforts but not providing any details about what transpired during their conversations. Reporters suggested that the first round of talks lasted about three hours:

The few reports that include examples of exchanges between Pompeo and North Korean officials present a bizarre picture. For example, one report claimed that Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, greeted Pompeo with a joke that he had visited North Korea so often that, next time, he was going to have to pay taxes there.

Another report claimed that President Trump equipped Pompeo with a CD copy of Elton John’s Rocket Man album as a gift to Kim Jong-un, a reference to the many times Trump used the insulting nickname “Little Rocket Man” to refer to the rogue communist dictator. Reporters asked Pompeo if he was, indeed, carrying the CD – illegal in North Korea, like all other Western media – but Pompeo refused to confirm or deny the report. Trump reportedly asked Kim during the Singapore summit if he knew Elton John or what he was referencing with the nickname, and Kim reportedly responded that he was not familiar with the artist.

Pompeo will travel to Japan following his overnight state in Pyongyang to brief South Korean and Japanese officials on how successful conversations with North Korean officials were and what subsequent steps all sides must take towards peace.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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