Pompeo to Visit North Korea Next Week to Meet With Kim Jong Un

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Pyongyang on Sunday to meet with Kim Jong Un and prepare for a second summit between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump.

The State Department’s announcement of Pompeo’s trip confirmed what he promised last week -- a visit soon to “make the final preparations” for another summit. Pompeo, who would be making his fourth visit to the isolated country, is seeking a firmer commitment for Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.

Unlike Pompeo’s most recent visit in July, he will meet with Kim and not just his deputies, according to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. After the previous trip, the North Korean denounced U.S. disarmament demands as “gangster-like” and “cancerous.” Trump postponed a follow-up visit by Pompeo in August.

Trump and Kim held a first-of-its-kind summit in Singapore in June that generated tremendous attention, but only vague intentions from Kim to work toward denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. president, who wants to defend Republican control of Congress in November, has opened talks on a second meeting despite few concrete nuclear concessions from Kim.

Busy Schedule

Pompeo’s Pyongyang visit, on Oct. 7, will be wedged between brief stops in Tokyo and Seoul, Nauert said. He’s expected to travel to Beijing before heading home.

“I think it shows forward progress and momentum that the secretary is making his fourth trip back in less than a year,” Nauert said. “Of course, we have quite a ways to go, but we look forward to the next steps in this conversation.”

The visit’s limited duration reflects the challenge the U.S. has in publicly pinning down Kim on what Pompeo insists was his private assurance that the regime was ready to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Pompeo’s counterpart, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, told the United Nations on Sunday that the regime wouldn’t dismantle its arsenal without “sufficient trust” with the U.S.

Competing Strategies

All along, the challenge has been to align two competing strategies: Pompeo demands that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons entirely before any sanctions can be lifted, while Kim’s government wants step-by-step sanctions relief and security guarantees to accompany any steps it makes toward an eventual goal of denuclearization.

Pompeo’s lightning trip this time around -- he will travel to four countries, half a world away from Washington, over just three days -- is in keeping with his practice. In the five months that he’s been the top U.S. diplomat, he has kept his travels abroad brief and relatively infrequent, as compared to his predecessors.

During his stay in Seoul, Pompeo was expected to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has played a key mediating role between Trump and Kim. He’ll also speak with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Wednesday that the Abe government expected Pompeo to make sure agreements between Trump and Kim were “completely and rapidly implemented.”

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