Mixed Messages from Pompeo’s Most Recent Trip to North Korea

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Conflicting messages have arisen from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s most recent visit to North Korea just concluded on Saturday. At the conclusion of the meetings, Pompeo told reporters that conversations he had with a high-ranking North Korean official were “productive” and conducted in “in good faith.”

“I think we made progress in every element of our discussions,” Pompeo said.

Later in the day on Saturday however, the North Korean Foreign Ministry called the talks with Pompeo “regrettable,” characterized the demands made by the U.S. statesmen “gangster-like,” and described the talks as “very concerning.”

The talks led to a “dangerous phase that might rattle our willingness for denuclearization that had been firm,” the unnamed Ministry spokesman said.

Pompeo was in North Korea to try and flesh out some of the details on the grand agreement made by U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un last month during their summit. The two leaders agreed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during their historic meeting in Singapore.

“My meeting with Chairman Kim was honest, direct, and productive. We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time…We’re prepared to start a new history and we’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations,” Mr. Trump said at the time.

Very little was announced during their summit by way of timetables or verification on how that goal was to be achieved however.

“The ultimate objective we seek from diplomacy with North Korea has not changed. The complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept,” Pompeo said ahead of that summit.

It seems that little headway was made toward those objectives during this latest round of talks as well, although State Department officials never did promise any deliverables out of this particular round of talks.

“These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues,” Pompeo said of last week’s meetings. “Some places a great deal of progress. Other place(s) there’s still more work to be done.”

There was also some confusion as to whether Pompeo was scheduled to officially meet with Kim Jong Un during this trip – he had met with him on each of his previous visits to the country. The two men did not meet face-to-face this time around.

The North Korean government seemed to go out of its way to exclude President Trump from its criticism, though. “We still cherish our good faith in President Trump,” their statement read.

That sentiment was returned by the President in a tweet earlier today. The President reiterated his faith in the ability of Kim to get the negotiations passed this apparent stall, while seeming to take aim at China’s role in the effort. China is North Korea’s most powerful ally and main benefactor.

“I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!” the President wrote.

Photo by U.S. Department of State

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