Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Returning to North Korea: White House

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to North Korea this week, the White House says.

The top US diplomat will fly to Pyongyang on July 5 to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his team, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Monday.

It will be his third known trip to North Korea as the US continues to push for a deal that will dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear program, potentially reducing tensions on the peninsula and recasting the geopolitical landscape of East Asia following the June 12 Singapore summit between Kim and President Donald Trump.

A team of US officials led by envoy Sung Kim met with North Korean officials Sunday at Panmunjom, the border village between North and South Korea in the demilitarized zone, in the first face-to-face conversations between the two countries since the summit last month, according to senior State Department officials.

During his trip, Pompeo will “continue consultations and implement the forward progress made by President Trump and Chairman Kim in Singapore,” according to the State Department.

The news comes amid a flurry of new questions over Kim’s commitment to denuclearize as leaked reports from US intelligence officials and analysis of open source satellite imagery appear to cast doubt on North Korea’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

On Monday, CNN reported that the Defense Intelligence Agency believes Kim has no intention of engaging in a full denuclearization program, at least for now, according to an administration official familiar with the agency’s finding.

A second official told CNN the Trump administration plans to present the North Koreans with a detailed list of tasks they must undertake to begin a denuclearization process.

The Washington Post earlier reported on US intelligence officials’ doubt that North Korea intends to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile.

Sanders would not comment on the reports when asked about them on Monday, saying only, “We aren’t going to confirm or deny any intelligence reports.”

Asked specifically whether Trump still trusts Kim, Sanders again wouldn’t say.

“We see progress and momentum in the process and we’ve had good conversations as recently as yesterday and we’re going to continue those conversations and push forward,” she said.

The announcement also comes just one day after US national security adviser John Bolton said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal could be dismantled in a year if Pyongyang cooperates, adding that the program would require “full disclosure of all (of North Korea’s) chemical and biological, nuclear programs, ballistic missile sites.”

“We have developed a program. I am sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans in the near future about really how to dismantle all of their (weapons of mass destruction)and ballistic missile programs in a year,” Bolton said on Sunday.

“If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they are cooperative, we can move very quickly. And it is to North Korea’s advantage to dismantle very quickly. Then the elimination of sanctions, aid by South Korea and Japan and others can all begin to flower,” he added.

Pompeo told CNN last week that he would not put a timeline on negotiations with North Korea, but he said the Trump administration will regularly assess the regime’s seriousness about abandoning its nuclear program as the US moves toward normalizing relations with Pyongyang.

He also did not answer when asked by lawmakers last week about specific conditions the administration has set for North Korea to achieve denuclearization and secure economic concessions.

“I’m not prepared to talk about the details of the discussions that are taking place,” he said, “I think it would be inappropriate and, frankly, counterproductive to achieving the end state that we’re hoping to achieve.”