WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) -US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday (Oct 31) Washington hoped the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would take place early next year "where we can make a substantial breakthrough in taking down the nuclear threat from North Korea".
Washington has demanded steps such as a full disclosure of the North's nuclear and missile facilities, before agreeing to Pyongyang's key goals including the lifting of international sanctions.
"There's a lot of work which remains, and Chairman Kim has made clear to me - just as plain as I'm speaking to you, Laura - that he has the intention to denuclearise and we'll do everything we can to assist him in following through on that commitment," Pompeo said in a radio interview with conservative commentator Laura Ingraham.
Pompeo did not name his counterpart, but Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to Kim Jong Un, has led past negotiating sessions with him.
The State Department declined to provide details, but the meeting is expected to take place in New York.
But even as Pompeo talked about the second Trump-Kim summit, Kim lashed out at the "vicious" sanctions regime against North Korea in the latest sign of his frustration with the pace of peace talks with the Trump administration.
Kim levelled some of his most blunt criticism yet of the sanctions restricting the flow of goods and capital to his country while visiting a construction site in a north-eastern coastal city of Wonsan, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Limits on trade and travel had put North Korea's attempts to develop the area into a regional tourist hub in a "difficult and tense situation."
"The hostile forces are foolishly keen on vicious sanctions to stand in our way towards promotion of people's well-being and development and to lead us to change and submission," KCNA cited Kim as saying, without specifying who he was referring to.
"They will be made to clearly see over time how our country that has built its own strength hundreds of times defying hardship."
Trump, who pledged to reestablish ties with North Korea during a landmark summit with Kim in June, has nonetheless insisted on maintaining the international economic embargo on the country.
Pompeo said in his interview on Wednesday that Kim Jong Un had committed to allowing US inspectors at two "significant" sites when he met him in Pyongyang this month.
"We hope to get them there before too long," Pompeo said without identifying the sites. He said he would speak with his North Korean negotiating counterpart about inspections next week.
South Korea's spy agency has observed preparations by North Korea for international inspections at several of its nuclear and missile test sites, the Yonhap news agency said on Wednesday, citing a South Korean lawmaker.
North Korea has stopped nuclear and missile tests in the past year, but it did not allow international inspections of its dismantling of Punggye-ri in May, drawing criticism that the action was merely for show and could be reversed.
In September, Kim Jong Un also pledged at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to close Sohae and allow experts to observe the dismantling of the missile engine-testing site and a launch pad.
At the time, Moon said North Korea agreed to let international inspectors observe a "permanent dismantlement" of key missile facilities, and take further steps, such as closing Yongbyon, in return for reciprocal moves by the United States.
American officials have been sceptical of Kim's commitment to giving up nuclear weapons, but the North's pledge at the summit with the South drew an enthusiastic response from Trump.