Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could soon make another visit to Pyongyang to further negotiations for the possible denuclearization of North Korea, South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo reported Tuesday.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked to confirm working-level talks in the demilitarized zone that reportedly took place over the weekend, and whether such talks involved planning Pompeo’s next visit to North Korea.
“We have no meetings or no plans and no travel to announce at this point,” Nauert said. “We will have correspondence with the North Korean government as we look to denuclearize North Korea.”
“I can tell you that conversations with the government of North Korea are becoming a far more normal matter, and that is exactly why we won’t be reading out every detail, every time we meet with them, every phone conversation or email that we exchange with them,” she continued.
Yet according to diplomatic sources who spoke with JoongAng Ilbo, the discussions centered around Pompeo’s fourth visit to Pyongyang and possibly a breakthrough in the current impasse in denuclearization negotiations.
“North Korean and U.S. diplomats secretly held discussions in the inter-Korean village of Panmunjom last Sunday … amid speculations that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may be making another visit to Pyongyang soon,” the paper reported.
“The two sides discussed denuclearization and a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War at the North Korea-controlled Tongilgak building, along with Pompeo’s possible trip, said sources,” the report continued. They were reportedly expected to hold additional meetings this week.
Pompeo has already made three separate trips to North Korea that have involved meetings with communist dictator Kim Jong-un and other senior regime officials. The meetings helped lay the groundwork for what the United States hopes will be stronger diplomatic relations that will eventually lead to the country giving up its nuclear weapons.
Pompeo’s first visit to Pyongyang was in April, before he made a follow-up visit in May. Later that month, Pompeo dined with Kim Jong-un’s right-hand man Kim Yong-chol, a U.S. Treasury-sanctioned “Specially Designated Person” that Americans are generally banned from engaging with.
The pair, alongside other North Korean officials, feasted on filet mignon, corn puree, and homemade vanilla ice cream, and later went on to meet Donald Trump and other administration officials at the White House.
Pompeo is also believed to be vital to Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un, having personally prepared the President for the meeting. The 54-year-old former CIA Director has indicated that the only acceptable outcome for the United States out of all of these negotiations is the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korea peninsula.”
“Our eyes are wide open with respect to the risks, but it is our fervent hope that chairman Kim wants to make a strategic change,” Pompeo said at a press conference in June following Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong-un.