'Real opportunity' for nuclear deal with North Korea, says Donald Trump's top diplomat

'I am very hopeful the conditions set by President Trump give us this chance'

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Sunday 29 April 2018 21:03
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Donald Trump says he 'believes' North Korea leader Kim Jong Un about peace talks

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he told Kim Jong-un he would have to take “irreversible” steps towards shutting North Korea's nuclear weapons programme for there to be any deal with US president Donald Trump. He also believed there was “a real opportunity” to strike such a deal.

Mr Pompeo, who was confirmed as the US’s top diplomat by the Senate last week, met secretly with the North Korean leader over Easter in order to prepare the ground for anticipated talks with Donald Trump in May. The meeting was highest level between the two countries since 2000, when then secretary of state Madeleine Albright met Kim Jong-il, Mr Kim’s father, and was the first meeting of Mr Kim and any US official.

While Mr Trump has said he is looking forward to meeting the 36-year-old leader and praised last Friday’s summit between the presidents of North and South Korea on the demilitarized zone separating the nations, Mr Pompeo said Washington was not simply going to take Mr Kim at his word.

“We use the word 'irreversible' with great intention,” Mr Pompeo told ABC News. “We are going to require those steps that demonstrate that denuclearisation is going to be achieved.”

He said his visit to North Korea had been intended to see if there was an opportunity for an historic shift in relations with the nuclear-armed national after decades of hostility. He said he believed there was a “a real opportunity” for the North Korean leader and Mr Trump to strike a deal.

Donald Trump: 'two sites' narrowed down for meeting with North Korea

“I am very hopeful that the conditions that have been set by President Trump give us this chance,” he said, in an interview that was broadcast on Sunday. “We know the history. We know the risks. We’re going to be very different…We’re not going to make promises. We’re not going to take words. We’re going to look for actions and deeds.”

Mr Trump has faced criticism in some quarters for agreeing to meet with Mr Kim without obtaining assurances in advance.

Yet over the weekend, South Korea said that North Korea’s main nuclear testing site - Punggye-ri - is to going to be closed as early as the beginning of May. Presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan said Mr Kim had said he “would carry out the closing of the nuclear test site in May”.

Mr Pompeo said Mr Kim is “going to have to make a big decision” on giving up nuclear weapons. “Does he want President Trump to continue to place him in the location that he finds himself today? Or is he looking for something... different,” he said.

Mr Pompeo’s comments were the most extensive yet regarding his Easter weekend talks in Pyongyang with Mr Kim. The North Korean leader expressed his readiness to discuss Mr Trump's demand “and to lay out a map that will help us achieve that objective”, Mr Pompeo said.

Mr Trump’s new national security adviser John Bolton told CBS News that Mr Kim may have “concrete and tangible” ideas about giving up his nuclear arms programme “and we should hear him out”.

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