WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced hope on Thursday (Dec 20) that a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can be scheduled for early 2019.
"We are hopeful that in the new year, President Trump and Chairman Kim will get together not too long after the first of the year and make even further progress on taking this (nuclear) threat to the United States away from us," Mr Pompeo said in an interview with KNSS Radio in his home state of Kansas.
Mr Pompeo, who has travelled to North Korea four times this year in search of a breakthrough, said the situation had "undoubtedly" improved since 2017's high tensions that led to fears of war.
"No more missiles being tested, no more nuclear testing. We're in a better place today," he said.
Mr Trump met Mr Kim in June in Singapore, in the first-ever summit between leaders of the two countries that never officially ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
Mr Trump has frequently cited North Korea as a success story as he seeks an accord in which Pyongyang would give up its nuclear weapons.
Mr Pompeo's optimism comes despite an apparent standstill in negotiations to prepare for the summit, with a senior North Korean official abruptly cancelling a meeting with the secretary of state scheduled last month in New York.
North Korea has also condemned the US decision to slap sanctions on senior aides to Mr Kim over human rights concerns, although Pyongyang was careful to blame the State Department and voice faith in Mr Trump.
Critics say that North Korea has made no concrete commitments and is unlikely to surrender its nuclear weapons programme, which the Kim dynasty has built for decades even as the country starved.