Pompeo ‘hopeful’ that Kim will denuclearize

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Pompeo ‘hopeful’ that Kim will denuclearize

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States is “very hopeful” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will fulfill his commitment to denuclearization as Washington and Pyongyang gear up for a second summit late this month.

“It’s a real opportunity for the world,” Pompeo said when asked about the summit’s prospects during an interview with Fox Business Network Wednesday. “I have a team on the ground in Pyongyang even as we speak beginning to lay those foundations for the meetings that’ll happen at the end of this month.”

Pompeo continued, saying it was in the “best interests” of the North Korean people, and in the best interests of Americans as well, for Kim to keep his promise to denuclearize, referring to one of the four major agreements he and U.S. President Donald Trump reached last June in Singapore during their first summit.

“That’s the president’s mission,” said Pompeo, “and that’s what we’ll seek to advance when we travel to Vietnam in a couple weeks.”

The secretary of state said he still believed North Korea will denuclearize because that’s what Kim personally told to his own people, apparently referring to Kim’s New Year’s address on Jan. 1.

“Chairman Kim has told his own people that they need to turn course, they need to advance their economic conditions inside of their country,” said Pompeo. “I think there is every opportunity that Chairman Kim will move on to fulfill the commitments that he made, and then we’ll, in turn, fulfill the commitments we made towards stability on the peninsula and a better future, a brighter future, for the North Korean people.”

Pompeo’s interview was made after Trump said in his State of the Union address last Tuesday evening that the second U.S.-North Korea summit will be held in Vietnam on Feb. 27 and 28, though he did not mention which city will host it. Trump relayed no additional details about the upcoming meeting, but said the United States was continuing its “historic push” for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. special representative to North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Pyongyang Wednesday morning to meet with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Hyok-chol, to lay the groundwork for the second Trump-Kim meeting. By Thursday press time, there were no signs of him returning home. According to a South Korean diplomatic source with knowledge of the discussions, Biegun landed in the North with a flexible schedule, which means the duration of his stay hinges on how productive the talks turn out to be.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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