Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned home from Pyongyang early Thursday morning following a successful meeting with North Korean officials, including Kim Jong-un.
The visit was Pompeo’s second trip to Pyongyang this year. The first, which took place on Easter weekend, was kept secret from the public until just before his Senate confirmation vote on April 26th.
The first trip, said Pompeo, was aimed to test the sincerity of the North’s promises on easing tensions. The second trip was intended to “put in place a framework for a successful summit.”
As Pompeo boarded a plane to head back home Wednesday morning, President Trump confirmed that the “date and place” for his highly anticipated meeting with Kim Jong-un had been set.
“For decades we have been adversaries,” said Pompeo. “Now we are hopeful that we can work together to resolve this conflict.”
Kim Jong-un in March invited Trump to talk about denuclearization and agreed to suspend missile tests. In April, Kim met with his South Korean counterpart and suggested he would relinquish his nukes if the United States commits to ending the Korean War and promises never to attack the North.
What remains unclear are Kim’s terms on denuclearization, which will likely include the removal of US troops from South Korea. Trump says this is not an option.
Pyongyang in recent days has also expressed displeasure with the Trump Administration over claims that its pressure tactics facilitated cooperation between the two Koreas and pushed Kim to the negotiating table.
These improvements are not the result of sanctions, said North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, but a product of the “will of the Korean people.”
Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang also facilitated the release of three Americans who had been detained in North Korea for more than a year.
“I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting,” tweeted Trump on Wednesday morning. “They seem to be in good health.”
The prisoners are among a number of Americans to be detained by North Korea for seemingly small offenses. Such prisoners are typically released when senior US officials personally visit North Korea to bail them out.
The Trump Administration has hailed the release of the prisoners as a gesture of good will, but has made it clear that all sanctions on North Korea will remain in effect until Pyongyang “permanently” dismantles its nuclear and missile programs.