Despite concerns that the president’s decision Tuesday to withdraw from the Iran deal would derail denuclearization talks with North Korea, negotiations with Pyongyang are still on track, at least for the time being.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived Wednesday in Pyongyang, where he held talks with Kim Yong Chul, a senior North Korean official. The two officials talked of peace between old enemies.
“For decades, we have been adversaries,” Pompeo told Kim. “Now we are hopeful that we can work together to resolve this conflict, take away threats to the world and make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve.”
“There are many challenges along the way,” Pompeo explained. “But you have been a great partner in working to make sure our two leaders will have a summit that is successful.”
Toasting to the new American secretary of state, Kim said, “I have high expectations the U.S. will play a very big role in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
Pompeo also met the North Korean leader on this trip, his second to North Korea in a month. Following a 90-minute meeting with Kim Jong Un, North Korea finally agreed to release three American prisoners — Kim Dong-Chul, Kim Hak-Song and Kim Sang-Duk (Tony Kim).
“President [Donald] Trump appreciates leader Kim Jong Un’s action to release these American citizens, and views this as a gesture of goodwill,” the White House said in a statement Wednesday.
The latest developments follow Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the multilateral Iran deal negotiated during the Obama administration. Many observers criticized the president’s action, angrily asserting that pulling out sent the wrong message to North Korea.
“Only a fool would trust the US to keep its word in a rogue state nuke deal now,” Robert E. Kelly, a professor of political science at Pusan National University in South Korea, tweeted in response. Numerous other analysts made similar arguments.
It is unclear whether negotiations with North Korea will be negatively affected in the long run. As is, high levels of mutual distrust and animosity cultivated over decades puts any potential deal in jeopardy.
During the president’s announcement on the Iran deal Tuesday, he took a moment to send a message to Kim Jong Un.
“Today’s action sends a critical message. The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them,” Trump stated, adding, “In fact, at this very moment, Pompeo is on his way to North Korea in preparation for my upcoming meeting with Kim Jong Un.” White House National Security Adviser John Bolton clarified the message, explaining that the withdrawal from the Iran deal “sends a very clear signal the United States will not accept inadequate deals.”
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