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Sec. of State Mike Pompeo said to again visit North Korea for denuclearization talks

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to President Donald Trump on June 1, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
June 29, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is reportedly going to again travel to North Korea next week to discuss, among other things, denuclearization, according to four people familiar with his travel plans.

The four people familiar with the plans confirmed the trip to the Financial Times. However, the State Department would not confirm the report and told Reuters there were no travel plans to announce at this time.

The officials said Pompeo canceled a July 6 meeting in Washington, D.C., with a top official from India in order to fly to Pyongyang, the Financial Times reported.

This would be the first time a high-level meeting between the U.S. and North Korea has taken place since President Trump and Kim Jong Un’s historic summit earlier this month in Singapore.

Pompeo has traveled to North Korea several times this year now, and many of those meetings were to lay the groundwork for the Trump-Kim summit.

Now, Pompeo is the lead man on the United States’ plan to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Just this week, satellite images revealed that North Korea has been making “rapid” infrastructure improvements at a nuclear research facility.

In early June, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement that called for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Satellite images that have been taken since the meeting reveal that work is still being done on one of North Korea’s main nuclear reactors.

The images were obtained by North Korea analysis outlet 38 North and indicate that improvements are being made to the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center at a “rapid” pace. The facility is located north of DPRK capitol Pyongyang.

Multiple structures – including buildings, a new cooling water pump house, a completed cooling water reservoir and an active radiochemical laboratory – have been added to the facility.

Analysts believe that the continued work at the nuclear facility shouldn’t be tied to Kim’s meeting with Trump, and it doesn’t indicate the long-term success of the historic Singapore summit.

“Continued work at the Yongbyon facility should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize. The North’s nuclear cadre can be expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang,” 38 North said in a press release.

Another analyst at 38 North believes that an actual deal should be signed between the U.S. and North Korea that sets specific terms that must be followed.

“Infrastructure improvements continue at Yongbyon; underscores reason why an actual deal is necessary, not just a statement of lofty goals,” Jenny Town, Managing Editor of 38 North, said on Twitter.

While the agreement that was signed between Trump and Kim doesn’t officially end the Korean War, which technically hasn’t ended since the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, it does call for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula in exchange for the U.S. committing to “security guarantees.”

“There is little certainty of how extensive [DPRK] nuclear weapons arsenal, fissile material stockpiles, or even missile arsenals are (only estimates), much less all the associated facilities. Proposals asking for [percentage] of arsenals/stocks are naive [without] this accounting first,” Town continued on Twitter.

When asked about 38 North’s analysis, North Korea’s Unification Ministry said that they “cannot confirm the report” and are “watching it closely.”

“Because Kim Jong Un has so far avoided making a commitment to halt research and development activities, the changes are not a success or failure of the diplomatic process, but simply a signal that North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure remains fully in use,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow and director at the Federation of American Scientists.