Pompeo says US, North Korea in better place after 'excellent' letter, may revive talks

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington on June 23, 2019
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington on June 23, 2019PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the United States and North Korea were in a "better place" after the leaders of the two countries exchanged letters, suggesting President Donald Trump will again seek to exploit his rapport with Mr Kim Jong Un to revive talks.

Speaking to reporters in Washington before departing on Sunday (June 23) for a multi-nation trip including the Middle East and the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Mr Pompeo confirmed North Korean state media reports that Mr Trump had sent the letter. The official Korean Central News Agency reported on Sunday that the missive had "excellent content", and Mr Kim, along with his military, read it with "satisfaction".

Mr Pompeo said the US has been preparing for additional talks with North Korea since two previous summits between Mr Trump and Mr Kim, including one in February in Hanoi, failed to secure a deal for North Korea to denuclearise.

"I'm hopeful that this will provide a good foundation for us to continue these important discussions with the North Koreans to denuclearise the peninsula," Mr Pompeo said of Mr Trump's letter.

"We're literally prepared to begin at a moment's notice if the North Koreans indicate that they're prepared for those discussions."

A year after Mr Trump and Mr Kim first met in Singapore, and months after their second and more confrontational meeting in Hanoi, the US and North Korea are stuck in the same spot - still waiting to begin substantive talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear programme in return for lifting sanctions that have cut off the isolated country's economy from the world.

US officials have sought for weeks to resume the discussions in the four months since talks collapsed in Hanoi and Mr Trump walked away from a North Korean offer to dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear-fuel processing site if the US lifted crippling sanctions. The US wants North Korea to go further and give up its entire nuclear programme, not just Yongbyon.

 

Mr Pompeo's trip will also take him to Osaka, where he will join Mr Trump for a meeting of the G-20, and then travel with the President to Seoul. There is no indication that any US officials plan to meet with North Korean counterparts at any point in the trip.

The South Korea government said in statement on Sunday that it was aware of the letter and "sees the exchange of letters between the heads of North Korea and the US as the two countries continuing the momentum of talks, and judges it positively".