‘Very productive talks with N. Korea’

Mike Pompeo addresses the media before boarding his plane at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang

Mike Pompeo addresses the media before boarding his plane at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang

On his third trip to Pyongyang since April and his first since last month's historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Pompeo was meeting on Saturday with Kim Yong Chol, a senior ruling party official.

If Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to North Korea on Friday and Saturday was created to ease worries about the progress on denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang, it seems to have failed.

His rosy outlook was nearly immediately rejected by North Korea's foreign ministry, which called the US attitude to the talks "regrettable" and accused the United States of making unilateral demands for denuclearization.

While the secretary told reporters that progress was made "on nearly all of the central issues" and involved "good-faith negotiations", North Korea said the United States attitude, demanding denuclearisation, was "regrettable".

When asked about the tension between the two, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, "There's a lot of hard work to be done. We had productive, good-faith negotiations".

And he said some progress had been made towards agreeing "the modalities" of North Korea's destruction of a missile facility.

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Nevertheless, Mr. Pompeo left Pyongyang saying the two sides had made progress.

But the North Korean statement, carried by the official KCNA news agency, said the USA had gone against the spirit of the summit by putting unilateral pressure on the country to abandon its nuclear weapons. "I expect that the DPRK (North Korea) is ready to do the same".

However, in another twist of approach towards Kim - who Trump once called "Little Rocket Man" - the United States administration renewed its sanctions on North Korea for another year.

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After the Singapore summit, which also saw the U.S. offer "security guarantees" to North Korea and promise to end its military drills with South Korea, Mr Trump claimed that the North no longer posed a nuclear threat.

"‎We talked about what the North Koreans are continuing to do and how it's the case we can get our arms around achieving what Chairman Kim and President Trump both agreed to, which was the complete denuclearization of North Korea", Pompeo told reporters. Since returning from Singapore, Trump has declared the North Korean nuclear threat over, even though the country's leaders promised nothing in a joint declaration signed by Kim and Trump that they hadn't agreed to many times before.

North Korea eyeing second summit with United States in Switzerland
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo drives towards Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, July 6, 2018. The Trump administration has said it would take between 1 and 2 1/2 years to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program.

The North provided a much harsher assessment of the talks.

"We did have very serious discussion on very important matters yesterday", Kim said, through a translator. Since the June 12 summit, North Korea has worked to upgrade its nuclear facilities, a matter that Pompeo said he had raised in the meetings.

"While we are encouraged by the progress of these talks, progress alone does not justify the relaxation of the existing sanctions regime".

Pompeo said he did not meet Kim on his latest visit to Pyongyang, as he had done twice before.

Nauert said the July 12 meeting, along the border between North and South Korea, would be at a working level and involve US Defense Department officials.

Before arriving in North Korea, Pompeo said he was seeking to "fill in" some details on North Korea's commitments and maintain the momentum toward implementing the agreement from the summit. It was unclear if Pompeo met this time with Kim Jong Un, as he had on his previous two trips to Pyongyang. But he stressed that "there's still more work to be done" in other areas, much of which would be done by working groups that the two sides have set up to deal with specific issues.

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