U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was ready to allow international inspectors into the North’s nuclear and missile testing sites, one of the main sticking points over an earlier denuclearization pledge.
Pompeo, who met Kim during a short trip to Pyongyang on Sunday, said the inspectors would visit a missile engine test facility and the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site as soon as the two sides agree on logistics.
“There’s a lot of logistics that will be required to execute that,” Pompeo told a news briefing in Seoul before leaving for Beijing.
The top U.S. diplomat also said both sides were “pretty close” to agreement on the details of a second summit, which Kim proposed to U.S. President Donald Trump in a letter last month.
Trump and Kim held an historic first summit in Singapore in June.
“Most importantly, both the leaders believe there’s real progress that can be made, substantive progress that can be made at the next summit,” Pompeo said.
Stephen Biegun, new U.S. nuclear envoy who was accompanying the secretary, said he offered on Sunday to meet his counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, “as soon as possible” and they were in discussion over specific dates and location.
Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang, his fourth this year, followed a stalemate as North Korea resisted Washington’s demands for irreversible steps to give up its nuclear arsenal, including a complete inventory of its weapons and facilities.
He told South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday his latest trip to Pyongyang was “another step forward” to denuclearization but there are “many steps along the way”.
At last month’s inter-Korean summit, the North expressed its willingness to close the Yongbyon nuclear complex if Washington takes corresponding action, which Moon said would include a declaration of an end to the 1950-53 Korean War.
Pompeo declined to comment whether there was progress on a shutdown of the Yongbyon site.
Moon also said the North will “permanently dismantle” its missile engine testing site and launch platform in the northwestern town of Tongchang-ri in the presence of experts from “concerned countries”.
But Pyongyang failed to keep its pledge to allow international inspections of its demolition of the Punggye-ri site in May, fanning criticism that the move could be reversed.
In July, satellite imagery indicated the North has begun dismantling the engine test site in Tongchang-ri, but without allowing outsiders access for verification. And the Stimson Centre’s 38 North said last week that no dismantling activity was spotted since Aug. 3.
Some experts say that opening the Tongchang-ri or Punggye-ri sites for inspection could be a goodwill gesture but has little significance in quickening denuclearization.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement Kim had invited inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to confirm it had been irreversibly dismantled. The statement did not provide further details.
In a more upbeat note, Pyongyang’s state media said on Monday Kim lauded his talks with Pompeo, where Kim “explained in detail the proposals for solving the denuclearization issue.”
“Kim Jong Un expressed satisfaction over the productive and wonderful talks with Mike Pompeo at which mutual stands were fully understood and opinions exchanged,” North Korean news agency KCNA said.
Kim said the bilateral dialogue would continue to develop “based on the deep confidence between the two leaders”, and expressed gratitude to Trump for making a sincere effort to implement the agreement made at their June summit, KCNA said.
KCNA also said the two sides agreed to hold working negotiations for the second summit as early as possible.
But it did not mention any inspection-related issue.
Commenting on Pompeo’s meeting with Kim, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim was expected to visit Russia soon. He said Chinese leader Xi Jinping was also expected to travel to North Korea but did not elaborate further.
North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, featured eight photos of the meeting on its front page, including shots of Kim and Pompeo smiling and shaking hands, as well as some with Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong.
North Korea denounced Pompeo on his previous trip to Pyongyang in July for making “gangster-like demands”. Pompeo did not meet Kim on that trip.
Reporting by Joyce Lee and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Peter Cooney, Michael Perry and Paul Tait
GOP will be ‘aided and abetted’ by Russian bots and trolls defending Trump: Former FBI counter-intel chief
The former assistant director for counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned Americans to "hunker down" because Russian intelligence will be repeating Republican talking points.
Frank Figliuzzi was interviewed Thursday by MSNBC's Brian Williams on "The Last Word."
"Frank, Fiona Hill -- who richly deserves it -- has been awarded front page status tomorrow morning on the front page of The New York Times, and I imagine newspapers and websites across this country," Williams noted.
"It was extraordinary today when she -- in effect, begged -- asked, certainly, members of the committee to stop supplying Russian talking points, to stop advancing Russian propaganda in the Congress of the United States," he continued.
Trump has committed 6 impeachable offenses: Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe says ‘the evidence is all there’
Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe broke down the six impeachable offenses President Donald Trump has committed during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.
Tribe has argued 36 cases before the United States Supreme Court and taught at Harvard Law for 50 years. He co-authored the 2018 book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment with Joshua Matz.
"Everyone was in the loop, it was no secret. That was the testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland yesterday as he implicated the president, Secretary of State, White House chief of staff, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other administration officials in the plot to bribe the president of Ukraine to publicly launch an investigation into Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid to Ukraine that was authorized by Congress and that the president was withholding," O'Donnell reported.
Rachel Maddow breaks down how public opinion is catching up with the facts of Trump’s impeachment
MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Thursday broke down how the details from the televised impeachment hearings are being reported in local newspapers.
The host read the headlines from multiple newspapers following the damning testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
The Los Angels Times headlined, "Sonland implicates president." "Envoy says Trump directed effort," was The Wall Street Journal headline.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined, "'Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret': Defiant Sondland says he followed Trump's orders."
"Trump directed pressure on Ukraine, ambassador says," headlined The Kansas City Star.