Pompeo signals ‘progress’ as North Korea pans talks
(CNN) — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left Pyongyang on Saturday seemingly optimistic after two days of high-level talks, but without announcing any concrete steps North Korea would take or a timeline towards denuclearization.
North Korea, however, poured cold water on the talks, saying the “attitude” of the US was “regrettable” and not in the spirit of the June 12 summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“We had many hours of productive conversations,” Pompeo told reporters Saturday in Pyongyang before boarding a flight to Tokyo. “These are complicated issues, but we’ve made progress on almost all the central issues. Some places, a great deal of progress. Other places, there’s still more work to be done.”
But North Korea called the outcome of the discussion “worrisome” and argued that the “cancerous issues” the US delegation raised were the same ones that had “amplified” distrust and the risk of war with past administrations and caused previous talks to end in failure, adding that its “willingness to denuclearize could falter.”
“We expected the US to bring constructive measures to build confidence in accordance with the spirit of the US-NK Summit,” the statement carried by state-run news agency KCNA said. “However, the attitude of the US in the first high-level talks held on the 6th and 7th were indeed regrettable.”
The statement added: “The United States is fundamentally mistaken to think that the demands that reflect their ‘robbery mentality’ are acceptable to our patience.”
Still, Pompeo gave assurances Saturday that North Korea is still committed to dismantling their nuclear program despite satellite images analyzed by researchers in the United States as infrastructure improvements to a nuclear facility and the finalizing of a ballistic missile manufacturing site.
When asked about the satellite images possibly showing nuclear site expansions, Pompeo said, “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.”
He added, “No one walked away from that, they’re still equally committed, Chairman Kim is still committed.”
Pompeo also told reporters that he discussed the destruction of a missile test site that Trump said was already being dismantled.
“The North Koreans also confirmed the missile engine testing facility, we talked about what the modalities would look like for the destruction of that facility as well and so some progress there as well,” Pompeo said. “And then we have laid out a path for further negotiations at the working level so that the two teams can get together and continue these discussions.”
He wouldn’t share details of the discussions on a timeline for North Korea to “complete” denuclearization and a baseline declaration of weapons of mass destruction, but he said “a good deal of time” was devoting to discussing those two things.
“I think we’ve made progress in every element of our discussion,” he said, describing the conversations as “productive, good faith negotiations.”
Pompeo was able to announce a small step toward achieving another element of the agreement Trump and Kim came to during their summit last month: the repatriation of US service members remains from the Korean War.
Out of the talks, a meeting has been arranged for July 12 at the Korean demilitarized zone to discuss with North Korean officials the return of US service members remains, according to Pompeo, who said that the date could move “by one day or two.”
Although he met Friday with Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of the country’s Party Central Committee, Pompeo did not meet with Kim on his trip to Pyongyang.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that Pompeo left Kim a letter from Trump. However, contrary to South Korean media reports, Nauert said Pompeo did not leave Kim a CD with the Elton John song “Rocket Man” — a nickname Trump has used to refer to Kim.