Pompeo backs away from North Korea denuclearisation timeline

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert addresses a press briefing in Washington D.C. the United States on Oct. 2 2018

U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert addresses a press briefing in Washington D.C. the United States on Oct. 2 2018

In the September 19 written statement, Pompeo had announced talks with North Korean officials involving him and newly appointed USA envoy Stephen Biegun.

"I'm optimistic that we'll come away from that with better understandings, deeper progress and a plan forward not only for the [next] summit between the two leaders, but for us to continue the efforts to build out a pathway for denuclearisation", he said at a news conference. "Nothing has changed with regard to our policy".

Pompeo stressed that, in the meantime, worldwide sanctions would have to remain in place on North Korea.

Rep. Park Kyung-mee, a spokeswoman of the ruling progressive Democratic Party, said in a statement that this year's National Foundation Day was more meaningful due to better prospects of establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, adding that 70 years of conflict with the North was "relieved at once".

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Days later, in an address to the U.N. General Assembly, Ri slammed the USA for continuing to pressure the regime with sanctions and declared there was "no way" the North would give up its nuclear program before seeing trust-building steps from the U.S.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the visit is an opportunity to strengthen "reconciliation, cooperation and peace" between the rivals. "In Tokyo, October 6-7, the Secretary will meet with Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono".

Pompeo, who is trying to arrange a second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, will also head to US allies Japan and South Korea, as well as North Korea's chief ally China with which the United States is engaged in escalating trade and diplomatic disputes.

Following the initial announcement, Trump said the summit will happen "fairly quickly" and showed reporters a new missive he had received from Kim, describing it as an "extraordinary letter". Singapore was not among the possible locations, he said.

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Cho said North Korea may have accepted the US proposal to shut down a nuclear weapons plant in addition to the Yongbyon complex that Kim promised to close during his third summit with Moon from September 18 to 20.

At a campaign rally on Saturday, Trump said he and Kim "fell in love", adding "he wrote me attractive letters". "No really. He wrote me handsome letters". However, he distanced himself from an earlier stated goal of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons by the end of Trump's four-year term in January 2021. "But it's a good first step", said Joel Wit, a senior Fellow at the Stimson Center who was involved in past negotiations with the North Koreans while working at the State Department.

"It looks like we'll have a second summit quite soon", he said.

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