US, North Korean Officials Meet At DMZ Amid Reports Kim Jong Un Is Advancing His Weapons Programs

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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U.S. officials met their North Korean counterparts in the Joint Security Area at the DMZ Sunday to discuss the plans for the implementation of the agreement reached at the historic Singapore summit.

Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, who previously served as the ambassador to South Korea and a negotiator in past nuclear talks, led a team to Panmunjom at the inter-Korean border, The Washington Post reported Monday. The meeting apparently marks the first face-to-face negotiations since President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12.

The meeting was held “to discuss next steps on the implementation of President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un’s joint declaration signed during the historic Singapore summit,” a U.S. embassy official told NK News. “Our goal remains the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK, as agreed to by Chairman Kim in Singapore,” the Department of State said in a statement.

On the North Korean side, the talks were led by Choe Son Hui, the vice minister of foreign affairs. During talks, Andrew Kim, head of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, reportedly delivered a letter from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man Kim Yong Chol, who visited the White House a few weeks before the Singapore summit.

Pompeo, who has already made two trips to North Korea in recent months, is expected to visit the country again in early July.

Negotiations at the inter-Korean border come amid reports that North Korea is advancing its weapons development infrastructure, despite Kim’s commitment to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” (RELATED: Possibly Dashing Dreams Of Denuclearization, Kim Jong Un Moves To Advance His Weapons Development Programs)

North Korea has put a moratorium on weapons testing and dismantled, to an unknown extent, its nuclear test site. While these appear to be positive steps, the North needs to explain some of its other activities, which came to light in late June.

Open-source and government intelligence indicates that North Korea has been expanding a key research and development facility for solid-fueled missiles, churning out launch vehicles and support equipment for new medium-range ballistic missiles, producing nuclear fuel at secret sites and improving the infrastructure at a major nuclear research center.

Such activities undermine Kim’s commitments, raising questions about whether the U.S. and North Korea will be able to resolve the nuclear issue through diplomatic means.

“We have developed a program,” White House National Security Adviser John Bolton explained Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I am sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans in the near future about really how to dismantle all of their [weapons of mass destruction] and ballistic missile programs in a year.”

“If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they are cooperative, we can move very quickly,” he added. “And it is to North Korea’s advantage to dismantle very quickly. Then the elimination of sanctions, aid by South Korea and Japan and others can all begin to flower.”

Bolton dismissed recent reports of North Korean misconduct, saying that such reports, the accuracy of which was not called into question, do not “serve the purpose of advancing the negotiations.”

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