U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday he is confident that the United States and North Korea are moving “in the right direction” toward a potential summit between their leaders in Singapore next month.
He said a high-ranking North Korean official with whom he has just had two days of talks in New York will travel to Washington on Friday and deliver a personal letter from the country’s leader Kim Jong Un to President Donald Trump.
“I am confident we are moving in the right direction,” the top U.S. diplomat said at a news conference. “Our two countries face a pivotal moment in our relationship in which it could be nothing short of tragic to let this opportunity go to waste.”
Pompeo made the remarks after the talks with Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, who became the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the United States in almost two decades.
“Vice Chairman Kim Yong Chol is now planning to travel to Washington to deliver a personal letter from Chairman Kim Jong Un,” he said.
(Mike Pompeo, center, arrives for a news conference)
Trump said earlier in the day that he hopes to have a summit with Kim Jong Un on June 12, a meeting Trump previously canceled. He also said he expects to receive a letter from Kim and that he looks forward to “seeing what’s in the letter.”
At the center of the ongoing series of talks between the two nations is how to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear program. North Korea, for its part, wants to seek security guarantees from Washington by holding a summit.
“I have been very clear that President Trump and the United States’ objective is very consistent and well-known — the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Pompeo said.
“President Trump has also made it clear that if Kim Jong Un denuclearizes, there is a brighter path for North Korea,” he said. “We envision a strong, connected and secure, prosperous North Korea that maintains its cultural heritage but is integrated into the community of nations.”
Pompeo said Washington and Pyongyang have made “real progress” in the last 72 hours toward setting conditions for a summit, but that he doesn’t know if the meeting will be confirmed on Friday.
He called for “bold leadership” from Kim, saying it would be an essential factor in whether the two countries will be able to “seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the course of the world.”
“President Trump and I believe that Chairman Kim is the kind of leader who can make those kinds of decisions, and that in the coming weeks and months we will have the opportunity to test whether or not this is the case,” he said.
(Kim Jong Un, right, and Mike Pompeo)
Thursday’s meeting between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol followed a dinner meeting on Wednesday. They held talks in North Korea in April and May, during which they agreed to proceed with preparations for the summit.
Kim, who previously headed the country’s spy agency, has played a prominent role in negotiations with South Korea and the United States in recent months.
Pompeo said when the United States makes any deal with North Korea, it will never run counter to the interests of its main Asian allies, Japan and South Korea.
“There is no daylight between the South Koreans, the Japanese and the United States with respect to our approach to how we resolve this issue with respect to North Korea,” he said.
“I have spoken to my counterparts there…we understand their concerns, we understand the risks that can be posed to them and an agreement that we reach will provide an outcome that each of those countries can sign onto as well,” he said.