U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is holding a second day of talks with North Korean officials in Pyongyang about ending the North's nuclear weapons program.
Pompeo began the day Saturday by making a secure telephone call to U.S. President Donald Trump before meeting for a second day with senior North Korea ruling party official and former intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol.
As the two men gathered before their talks, Chol asked Pompeo if he slept well on his first overnight stay in the country. Pompeo confirmed he did and the two had a brief exchange before reporters were asked the leave the room.
President Trump is committed to a brighter future for North Korea, Pompeo said.
It is not known if Pompeo will meet Saturday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as he has done on his previous visits.
It is Pompeo's third visit this year to North Korea and the first where he stayed overnight. It is also his first visit since Trump met with Kim at last month's Singapore summit.
The top U.S. diplomat has been charged by Trump with overseeing Kim's promise at the summit to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
In the Singapore accord, Kim agreed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but there were no details of how and when that might occur. Pompeo hopes to press North Korea to work toward a timetable to end its nuclear program and lay out details of how verification of that can be carried out.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Saturday that U.S. and North Korean officials have set up working groups to deal with nitty gritty stuff, including verification of efforts to achieve denuclearization.
She said Pompeo had been very firm in the discussions in seeking three basic goals: complete denuclearization of North Korea, security assurances, and the repatriation of remains of Americans who died in the Korean War. Nauert also said progress had been made in the secretary's meetings Friday.
Expansion by Pyongyang
Pompeo's latest trip to North Korea comes amid reports of American intelligence assessments that Kim is continuing to develop the infrastructure for his nuclear program. U.S. news accounts in recent days have shown pictures of what is said to be the expansion of nuclear-related buildings in North Korea.
Speaking Thursday aboard Air Force One on a trip to Montana, Trump said he still believes Kim will follow through on his promise and said he forged a personal connection with the leader.
I think we understand each other. I really believe that he sees a different future for North Korea, Trump told reporters. I hope that's true. If it's not true, then we go back to the other way, but I don't think that's going to be necessary.''
Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, says North Korea could dismantle its nuclear arsenal within a year, but other U.S. officials have said they hope it can be accomplished by the end of Trump's first term in the White House, in January 2021.
Creation of a 'mirage'
Sung-Yoon Lee, a Tufts University professor of Korean studies, told VOA that denuclearization means different things to the U.S. and North Korea, with Washington applying it only to Pyongyang and North Korea calling for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, although there is no indication South Korea has a nuclear arsenal.
He said that North Korea, by dangling the possibility of giving up nuclear weapons and calling for a post-summit summit, is managing to drag out negotiations over the details of any denuclearization.
Lee said North Korea has created a mirage, the delusion of concessions to the United States by releasing three Americans it was holding and destroying one of its nuclear test sites in order to push the U.S. to ease economic sanctions on the North, although Washington has shown no sign of relenting.
He said relations between the U.S. and North Korea have dramatically shifted in North Korea's favor over the past few months.
Source: Voice of America