Key players in US-Korea diplomacy: Mike Pompeo

From coming dangerously close to blows to agreeing to sit down for historic talks, it has been a roller-roaster ride not only for the two main protagonists, Washington and Pyongyang, but also the rest of the world. Here's a look at the players in the high-stakes diplomacy.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has suggested new sanctions on North Korea could be in the works. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Mr Mike Pompeo has had an eventful first month as America's top diplomat.

The US Secretary of State flew to Pyongyang on May 9, to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in part to discuss the planned summit between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump. He was the highest-ranking US official to visit North Korea after then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's trip to North Korea in 2000.

Mr Pompeo returned to the United States with three Americans detained in North Korea, a coup for the Trump administration.

This was not the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief's first visit to North Korea to meet Mr Kim. The former spy chief had secretly visited North Korea during the Easter weekend in April, to lay the groundwork for the June 12 summit. This was even before he was sworn in as State Secretary on April 27 to replace Mr Rex Tillerson.

Mr Pompeo, a former Tea Party congressman, once said the US administration needed to find a way to separate Mr Kim from his growing nuclear stockpile. "The North Korean people, I'm sure, are lovely people and would love to see him go," he told the Aspen Security Forum in July last year, a time when tensions between the US and North Korea were high.

He has since changed his tone about North Korea. "I have never advocated for regime change," he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month.

On Thursday, Mr Pompeo suggested that new sanctions on North Korea could be in the works even as he expressed hope Mr Kim would ultimately re-engage with the US.

With input from US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh

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