Pompeo proposes discussing nukes in ViennaU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invited North Korean representatives to meet in New York and Vienna to discuss dismantling the North’s nuclear program.
He also gave a deadline for denuclearization: January 2021, the end of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term in office.
“This morning, I invited my counterpart Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to meet in New York City next week where we are both already scheduled to be in attendance at the United Nations General Assembly meeting,” Pompeo said in a statement on Wednesday. “Likewise, we have invited North Korean representatives to meet our Special Representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, in Vienna, Austria at the earliest opportunity.”
Vienna is home to the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Pompeo’s invitation came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a joint declaration in Pyongyang that day following their third summit together.
In the document, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Kim promised to invite international inspectors to verify the dismantling of a missile engine test site. He also offered to shut down the country’s core nuclear facility if the United States offers “corresponding measures” in return.
The IAEA, which sends experts to inspect nuclear stockpiles, was not mentioned in the declaration, but Pompeo included them in his remarks.
“We welcome President Moon and Chairman Kim’s reaffirmation of the Singapore joint statement of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he said, “including the permanent dismantlement of all facilities at Yongbyon in the presence of U.S. and IAEA inspectors.”
Pompeo also set a deadline for North Korea’s denuclearization despite having told CNN in June that he would not. Analysts have commented that the unspoken deadline was always 2021, the end of Trump’s first term in office.
The meetings in New York and Vienna “will mark the beginning of negotiations to transform U.S.-DPRK relations through the process of rapid denuclearization of North Korea to be completed by January 2021, as committed by Chairman Kim,” Pompeo said.
Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he would be meeting Kim soon. “We will be,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. Trump also mentioned a letter he received from Kim but did not reveal the contents. “I got a tremendous letter from Kim Jong-un … delivered three days ago,” he said. “We’re making tremendous progress with respect to North Korea.”
Trump met with Kim on June 12 in Singapore, marking the first time that a sitting U.S. president met with the North Korean leader.
When asked about the “corresponding measures” that Kim expected from Washington, Trump said, “Well, we’ll see what he’s looking at. We’ll see. But in the meantime, we’re talking. It’s very calm. He’s calm; I’m calm. So we’ll see what happens.”
Negotiations between North Korea and the United States have been at a standstill since Trump abruptly canceled Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang in August. “I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Trump wrote on Twitter at the time.
Pompeo has made three visits to North Korea: one at the start of April before the first Moon-Kim summit, another in May before the second Moon-Kim summit and again in July after the Trump-Kim summit.
Pompeo met with Kim in his first two trips. When he was in North Korea the third time, Kim did not meet with him during his three-day stay. Instead, he was at a potato farm near the border with China, according to the North’s state media.
Some North Korea analysts say that no matter how many times Moon and Kim meet, everything hinges on the denuclearization talks between North Korea and the United States.
“There needs to be groundbreaking concessions and concrete promises in the U.S.-North talks before the situation in the Korean Peninsula improves,” said Zheng Jiyong, a professor of international studies at the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.
BY ESTHER CHUNG, SHIN KYUNG-JIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]