WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top North Korean nuclear envoy met President Donald Trump at the White House after holding talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday in a diplomatic flurry aimed at laying the groundwork for a second U.S.-North Korea summit.
The visit of Kim Yong Chol, Pyongyang’s lead negotiator with the United States and a hardline former spy chief, marked a rare sign of potential movement in a denuclearization effort that has stalled since a landmark meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year.
Kim Yong Chol and Pompeo, with tight smiles, posed together for photographs at a Washington hotel before holding about 45 minutes of talks that could determine whether the two sides can make headway.
After those talks, the White House said Trump met Kim Yong Chol in the Oval Office to “discuss relations between the two countries and continued progress on North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearization.”
There has been no indication of any narrowing of differences over U.S. demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States or over Pyongyang’s demand for a lifting of punishing sanctions.
Hours before Kim Yong Chol’s arrival on Thursday, Trump – who declared after the Singapore summit in June that the nuclear threat posed by North Korea was over – unveiled a revamped U.S. missile defense strategy that singled out the country as an ongoing and “extraordinary threat.”
The State Department said after the meeting that Pompeo had a “good discussion” with Kim Yong Chol “on efforts to make progress on commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore.” But it provided no specifics.
The high-level visit could yield an announcement of plans for a second summit. Both Trump and Kim have expressed an interest in arranging but some U.S.-based analysts say it would be premature due to the lack of obvious progress so far.
Their first meeting produced a vague commitment by Kim to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but he has yet to take what Washington sees as concrete steps in that direction.
Reporting By Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom, additional reporting by Steve Holland and David Alexander, Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Alistair Bell