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Pompeo optimistic on North Korea talks as former official calls it PR stunt

President Donald J. Trump and Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Jong Un speak to reporters Sunday, June 30, 2019, as the two leaders meet in Freedom House at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has expressed optimism over renewed nuclear talks with North Korea, saying the two sides are “further along” compared with a year ago.

Pompeo joined President Donald Trump on June 30 for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas.

“I left there with the recognition, I think, that Chairman Kim really wants to get something done, something very significant, that we want to do so in a timely way,” Pompeo said.

Trump and Kim have met twice in high-profile summits as part of U.S. efforts to persuade Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons. Trump has made reaching a deal with Kim a cornerstone of his foreign policy.

After spending about 50 minutes in talks behind closed doors with Kim, Pompeo said the two sides had designated teams to resume stalled nuclear negotiations within weeks, but added there was still no working agreement.

“We think we do have a jumping-off point for these discussions, which have put us in a place where we can truly evaluate if there is a clear path forward,” Pompeo said.

“We’re not where we were 12 months ago. We’re further along than that.”

Trump stopped off in South Korea on his way back from the Group of 20 summit in Japan. He kicked off the meeting by shaking hands with Kim over the border and then set foot in North Korea, the first U.S. president to do so.

Trump later described his meeting with Kim as “wonderful” and invited the North Korean leader to visit the United States.

The two have had effusive praise for each other after the summits, but little progress has been made on denuclearization.

Ben Rhodes, former White House deputy national security adviser under President Barack Obama, dismissed the historic meeting as nothing more than a PR stunt by Trump.

“North Korea’s nuclear program has grown since Trump first met with Kim. Kim knows Trump just wants photo ops and Trump knows most US media will give him a win for a photo op. So here we are,” Rhodes said in a tweet on June 30.