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Trump open to new North Korean summit only if ‘real progress’ likely, Pompeo says

President Trump Meets with Kim Jong Un (The White House/Flickr)
July 15, 2020

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated little interest by President Donald Trump in another summit with North Korea, adding that Trump would only consider such an option if there were signs that progress could be made in the Korean peace process.

Joining The Hill’s Bob Cusack for an interview, Pompeo said North Korea gave “mixed signals” about its intentions for denuclearization and stopped working with the U.S. on the denuclearization and peace effort.

Discussing the prospect of a return to negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea, Pompeo said, “The truth is President Trump only wants to engage in a summit if we believe there’s a sufficient likelihood that we can make real progress in achieving the outcomes that were set forth in Singapore.”

Pompeo said that the U.S. had tried to engage in “informed discussions” with North Korea but “you need to have a willing partner, and the North Koreans have chosen at this point in time not to engage in a way that can lead to a potential solution.”

“We hope they’ll change their mind,” he added.

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Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for their first in-person summit in Singapore in 2018, initiating the start of an effort to negotiate the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Trump and Kim met again in February of 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam but Trump indicated talks faltered as they discussed U.S. sanctions on North Korea.

Negotiations appeared to fall apart in the months after the 2019 Hanoi summit and though efforts were made to restart talks in Stockholm, Sweden in October the talks again fell through. As the year 2019 came to a close, Kim increasingly insisted on a 2019 year-end deadline for the U.S. to propose agreeable terms and threatened that North Korea would otherwise break off talks.

Since the 2019 deadline passed, North Korea has carried out missile tests on multiple occasions.

In recent weeks, North Korean relations with South Korea have also shown signs of strain. North Korea threatened to end a security agreement with South Korea as a result of outrage over South Korean activists dropping anti-regime leaflets over North Korea. Weeks later, North Korea did demolish an inter-Korean liaison office meant to facilitate increased cooperation between the two Koreas.

North Korea also rejected South Korean suggestions of renewed peace talks with the U.S. last week ahead of a planned visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun to South Korea. Pompeo’s latest comments on entering into talks with North Korea suggest a mutual disinterest in returning to the process.