Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed doubts Friday about whether a brief trip to Pyongyang would result in a time and place for another meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, but said that a second summit remains a top goal.
En route to Tokyo for the first leg of a four-country trip, Mr. Pompeo said he aimed to work on details for another engagement between the two men following their first summit in Singapore in June.
“I doubt we will get it nailed,” Mr. Pompeo said, adding that he hoped to “begin to develop options for both location and timing for when Chairman Kim will meet with the president again.”
In remarks last week during the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Mr. Pompeo said he would travel to North Korea to make “final preparations for that second meeting between the two leaders.” He said the summit could take place in October, but more likely afterward.
On Friday, Mr. Pompeo said “many exchanges” have occurred between U.S. and North Korean officials as well as South Korean representatives over the course of talks. He said the goal of the current trip, his fourth visit to North Korea, was “to make sure we understand what each side is truly trying to achieve.”
Advancing the process requires the officials on both sides to “develop sufficient trust so they can take the actions necessary to get to the end” of negotiations, he said.
Mr. Trump last week relaxed U.S. demands for North Korea’s denuclearization timetable, dropping requirements that it give up its weapons rapidly. Mr. Trump said at a news conference that he didn’t want to engage in a “time game.”
Mr. Pompeo on Friday declined to address the specifics of negotiations, including whether the U.S. would agree to declare an official end to the Korean War, which finished in 1953 with an armistice.
At the Singapore summit, North Korea agreed to denuclearize in exchange for U.S. security guarantees. Mr. Trump also pledged to stop military exercises on the Korean Peninsula. But there were few specifics in their joint statement.
Asked whether he was bringing correspondence or a gift from the president, Mr. Pompeo said: “I am not bringing anything that we are prepared at this point to talk about publicly.”
Mr. Pompeo will meet separately Saturday evening with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono, before traveling to Pyongyang for talks with Mr. Kim.
From there, he will continue on to Seoul to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, then will fly to China on Monday.
Mr. Pompeo said he is wary of past attempts at engagement between the U.S. and North Korea. Past agreements “floundered,” he said. “And so this has to be fundamentally different from that.”
The difference from past attempts, he said, was an understanding between both sides that “we will get to denuclearization, in a fully verified, irreversible way, and then we will actually deliver on the commitments to make this brighter future for the North Korean people.”
Mr. Pompeo said that China, North Korea’s closest political and economic ally, will have a role in the process and is “determined to support our efforts.”
Traveling with Mr. Pompeo are Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, lead Korea specialist for the National Security Council Allison Hooker, and Department Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs W. Patrick Murphy.