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Offbeat Pompeo, off to North Korea again, is under the gun to produce results

03:10  05 july  2018
03:10  05 july  2018 Source:   cnn.com

Pompeo: North Korea understands scope of U.S. denuclearization request

  Pompeo: North Korea understands scope of U.S. denuclearization request U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday he was confident that North Korea understood the scope of the U.S. desire for complete denuclearization as the two countries negotiate after President Donald Trump's summit this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "We've been pretty unambiguous in our conversations about what we mean when we say complete denuclearization," Pompeo told a Senate subcommittee hearing.He said he would be leading continuing talks with Pyongyang and that he was optimistic the United States would begin receiving remains of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War "in the not-too-distant future.

Primary Results . Washington (CNN) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to North Korea on Thursday under pressure to produce tangible signs of progress as US intelligence reports cast doubt on Kim Jong Un's intention to dismantle his nuclear and missile programs.

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the release of the Trafficking in Persons report at the State Department June 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. © Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about the release of the Trafficking in Persons report at the State Department June 28, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to North Korea on Thursday under pressure to produce tangible signs of progress as US intelligence reports cast doubt on Kim Jong Un's intention to dismantle his nuclear and missile programs.

The top US diplomat has offered few details about the state of negotiations following the June summit in Singapore between Kim and President Donald Trump, but knows he must return from his third trip to North Korea in as many months with concrete plans for a path forward, sources tell CNN.

Trump: We'd be at war with North Korea if it wasn't for me

  Trump: We'd be at war with North Korea if it wasn't for me President Trump's tweet follows reports that U.S. officials believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons."Many good conversations with North Korea-it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!" Trump wrote on Twitter.

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

"Pompeo has already been to Pyongyang twice and -- as Singapore made clear -- came away with very little to show on the core US interest of denuclearization," according to John Hannah, senior counselor at Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former senior adviser to Bill Clinton's Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

"It should not happen a third time without Kim understanding that -- while diplomacy might continue -- there will be consequences in terms of a ratcheting up of the maximum pressure campaign, and certainly no prospect of another summit with President Trump," Hannah said about Pompeo's upcoming trip.

While Pompeo has told CNN that he is not willing to lay out a timeline for talks, he noted that he wants to see continued progress showing Kim is serious about dismantling his nuclear program and that he plans to discuss next steps when the two meet this week.

As Pompeo heads to North Korea, State Department denies softening

  As Pompeo heads to North Korea, State Department denies softening The State Department on Thursday denied that the United States had softened its approach toward North Korean denuclearization, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads to Pyongyang hoping to agree a roadmap for its nuclear disarmament. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Our policy toward North Korea has not changed," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on the way to Pyongyang."We are committed to a denuclearized North Korea and Secretary Pompeo looks forward to continuing his consultations with North Korean leaders to follow up on the commitments made at the Singapore summit," she added.

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

A major question mark

But Kim's sincerity when it comes to taking apart his nuclear and missile program remains a major question mark.

CNN reported this week that the Defense Intelligence Agency believes that 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.

The Washington Post earlier reported on US intelligence officials' doubt that North Korea intends to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile and recent commercial satellite imagery has shown some continuing activity at various nuclear fuel and missile sites.

A senior State Department official told CNN they are not surprised at the reports, believing Pyongyang is playing hardball before negotiations start in earnest.

The same senior official told CNN that the North Koreans know that they need to produce evidence to prove their seriousness. An intelligence official told CNN last week that the administration plans to present the North Koreans with a detailed list of tasks they must undertake to begin a denuclearization process.

Did Pompeo bring Kim Jong Un a 'Rocket Man' CD? He won't say.

  Did Pompeo bring Kim Jong Un a 'Rocket Man' CD? He won't say. The secretary of state neither confirmed nor denied a report that an Elton John CD was among the gifts he intended to present to Kim Jong Un.It was one of the more left-field questions posed by reporters after he landed in North Korea, a trip designed to "fill in some details" on the denuclearization agreement signed by Kim and President Donald Trump last month.

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

Nearly all the experienced officials at the State Department and the National Security Council working on the North Korea issue -- including Pompeo himself -- remain skeptical of Kim's willingness to denuclearize given Pyongyang's long history of misleading the US, officials familiar with the talks said.

Delays and obfuscation

These officials view negotiations as something that's worth pursuing, but realize they have an uphill battle, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Pompeo and his team of experts know the North Koreans have a track record of delays and obfuscation, but feel previous issues should not preclude an attempt to strike a deal, the senior State Department official said.

Kim "reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" in a signed agreement after his Singapore summit with Trump.

But longtime North Korea watchers worry that Pyongyang and Washington have very different definitions of the term denuclearization -- an issue that could present a challenge for Pompeo as he attempts to hash out the details of a binding agreement.

Working groups on denuclearization set up by Pompeo and North Koreans: report

  Working groups on denuclearization set up by Pompeo and North Koreans: report U.S. and North Korean officials have set up working groups to deal with “nitty gritty stuff” including validation of efforts to achieve denuclearization, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said on Saturday, the second day of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang.

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

The Latest on the United States and North Korea (all times local):4:22 p.m.The White House says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make another trip to North Korea as the Trump administration seeks agreement with Pyongyang on an acceptable denuclearization

"To ensure that it is not just being 'played' by North Korea, the administration will be under increasing pressure to demonstrate that real progress has been achieved on denuclearization and that Kim Jong Un has in fact made the strategic decision to rid himself of nukes and missiles in exchange for security and economic benefits," Hannah said.

Pompeo faces another challenge as he returns to Pyongyang. The US has said if North Korea lags in its promises to denuclearize, it will quickly ratchet up the "maximum pressure" campaign that brought North Korea to the table with economic sanctions.

Hedging his bets

But Kim has been careful to hedge his bets in the wake of his summit with Trump, travelling to Beijing just days after his trip to Singapore for a celebratory meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin may also meet in the near future.

That new diplomacy could give Kim the room to undermine the "maximum pressure" campaign, particularly with China.

Bill Richardson, the former US energy secretary, ambassador and repeat US envoy to North Korea, said Xi holds the power to loosen sanctions that are biting the North Korean economy by looking the other way on cross-border smuggling and energy restrictions imposed by the US and United Nations.

"I believe Kim Jong Un is trying to delay denuclearization and do it at his own pace," he said, noting that can be accomplished only with sanctions relief from China.

Beijing fears instability in North Korea that could send desperate refugees flooding across its borders or even worse, lead to the prospect of US troops moving into North Korea as a stabilizing force and right to Chinese borders.

CNN's Kevin Liptak and Barbara Starr contributed reporting

U.S. asks U.N. to cut off oil products to North Korea .
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