YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday he expects North Korea to be ready to “fill in some details” of the commitments on denuclearization made by Kim Jong Un at his historic summit with President Donald Trump last month.
Pompeo arrived for a refueling stop at Yokota Air Base in Japan on his way to Pyongyang for the third time since April and the first since the June 12 summit.
His mission is to translate the upbeat rhetoric following the first meeting between leaders of the U.S. and North Korea into concrete action that will eliminate the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear arsenal.
“Our leaders made commitments at the Singapore summit on the complete denuclearization of North Korea and outlined what a transformed US-DPRK relationship could look like,” he said, according to comments relayed to reporters on his plane by spokeswoman Heather Nauert. DPRK is the abbreviation of the authoritarian nation’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Since the summit the consultations have continued. On this trip I’m seeking to fill in some details on these commitments and continue the momentum towards implementation of what the two leaders promised each other and the world. I expect that the DPRK is ready to do the same,” Pompeo said.
Over the past quarter-century, North Korea has frustrated or outfoxed U.S. administrations that have attempted to stop and reverse its weapons development through diplomacy and sanctions. Since the summit, doubts over the North’s intentions have grown again, amid reports that it is continuing to expand facilities related to its nuclear and missile programs and that U.S. intelligence is skeptical about its intentions to give up its weapons.
Trump himself has remained upbeat. Asked Thursday if North Korea was hiding nuclear facilities the president said: “We’ll see. All I can tell you is this. You haven’t had one missile launch and you haven’t had one rocket launch or you haven’t had any nuclear tests.”
Speaking aboard Air Force One on a trip to Montana, Trump said he believed he forged a personal connection with the young autocrat he once pilloried as “Little Rocket Man.”
“I had a very good feeling about him. … I shook his hand, I felt we got along very well,” Trump told reporters. “I think we understand each other. I really believe that he sees a different future for North Korea. … I hope that’s true. If it’s not true, then we go back to the other way, but I don’t think that’s going to be necessary.”
It will be Pompeo’s mission to put that proposition to the test and help lay to rest doubts over whether the president, who has already ordered a suspension of large-scale U.S. military drills with South Korea, is overeager to make his engagement with Kim appear a success.
There’s been mixed messaging from the administration before over what promises to be a tough negotiation to get Pyongyang to roll back its weapons capabilities.
National security adviser John Bolton, who has expressed hardline views on North Korea, said Sunday that Pompeo will present Pyongyang with a plan to complete the dismantling of the North’s nuclear and missile programs in one year. On Tuesday, Nauert walked that back, declining to give a timeline. Pompeo himself has previously said the U.S. wanted North Korea to take “major” disarmament steps in the next two years before Trump completes his first term in office.
This will be Pompeo’s third trip to North Korea in three months. He last visited in May ahead of the Trump-Kim summit and traveled there secretly in early April while he was director of the CIA.
Pyongyang will be the first stop on his first around-the-world trip as America’s top diplomat. He will then travel to Japan, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates before heading to Belgium, where he will accompany Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels.