Hopes for Pompeo’s tripThe stalled negotiations between the United States and North Korea over denuclearization seem to have gained momentum again. On Tuesday, the State Department announced that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will embark on his fourth trip to Pyongyang on Sunday. That is good news as the visit suggests a resumption of the nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang after Pompeo returned empty-handed from his third trip to North Korea in July.
Pompeo’s fourth visit to the North has been made possible largely thanks to President Moon Jae-in’s diplomacy in both Pyongyang and New York last month, as he tried to find a breakthrough in the deadlock as a mediator. Now the world’s attention is focused on what kind of achievements Pompeo will be able to make through his trip.
The biggest question is when and where a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place. In his fourth trip to Pyongyang, Pompeo could set an agenda for a second Trump-Kim summit. As both sides cannot make unilateral concessions, some kind of give and take is required.
At the moment, Washington wants Pyongyang to dismantle specific nuclear facilities while Pyongyang demands Washington agree to declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War and ease sanctions.
Due to the huge gap between their positions, it is too early to be sure of a successful fixing of an agenda during Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang. But there arose some points to think about after North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said in a UN address that if the United States does not want to declare an end to the war, North Korea would not stick to the demand.
Ri’s remarks may reflect the North’s idiosyncratic strategy of waging a war of nerves ahead of a second summit between Kim and Trump. But at the same time, they might be a confession that what Pyongyang really wants from Washington is easing of sanctions rather than an end-of-war declaration. That’s why some security experts said Pompeo could agree to expand the scope of exceptions to sanctions rather than immediately lift or ease them, while agreeing to discuss the declaration down the road.
In any case, North Korea must agree to denuclearize in a sincere way. In a briefing at the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the U.S. government is confident enough to keep the dialogue going. We hope Pompeo brings back good results from the visit.