Pompeo Insists Talks With North Korea ‘Productive,’ But ‘There’s Still More Work To Be Done’

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrapped up his two-day visit to North Korea Saturday, insisting that the two sides made “a great deal of progress.”

In the highest-level talks since the June 12 summit in Singapore, Pompeo met with Kim Yong Chol, the North Korean leader’s right-hand man, for negotiations intended to clarify plans for the implementation of the agreement signed in Singapore. The secretary did not, however, meet with Kim Jong Un as he had during his previous two visits prior to the summit, the Canadian Press reported.

The talks came on the heels of lower-level negotiations at the DMZ on the implementation of the agreement. During discussions, the North Koreans reportedly bristled at U.S. attempts to define the terms of the agreement, pushing back on terms like “complete,” “verifiable,” and “irreversible” when it came to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. (RELATED: US, North Korean Officials Meet At DMZ)

The secretary of state and his team stayed overnight for the first time during the most recent visit.

Pompeo, who insists that the talks went well while noting that “there’s still more work to be done,” departed Pyongyang Saturday with only a commitment from the North Koreans to continue talks. Beyond this offer, it appears the secretary left North Korea without any real concrete achievements. “We will produce an outcome, results,” Kim Yong Chol told Pompeo as he boarded the aircraft to leave, according to Bloomberg.

U.S. and North Korean officials are expected to meet later in July at the inter-Korean border to discuss the repatriation of the remains of American war dead, a concession expected much sooner. Late in June, the U.S. military sent 100 coffins to the border in preparation for the handover, but North Korea has not yet turned over the remains. (RELATED: US Military Sends 100 Coffins To Korean Border To Collect War Dead)

Pompeo said the North confirmed its intention to destroy a missile-engine testing facility — the Sohae Satellite Launch Center, although demolition of this important facility has yet to begin.

As for the critical topic of denuclearization, the two sides agreed to create working groups to sort out the “nitty gritty stuff,” a State Department spokesperson revealed, according to Reuters. Experts have expressed concern about this particular development, noting that North Korea has previously used this tactic to stall for time in nuclear talks.

It is unclear if Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol discussed recent reports that North Korea is advancing its weapons development programs through infrastructure improvements at reactors, research facilities, and missile development sites, as well as the increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons. (RELATED: Perhaps Dashing Dreams Of Denuclearization, Kim Jong Un Moves To Advance His Weapons Development Programs)

“There’s a lot of hard work that’s left to be done,” a State Department spokeswoman said Saturday, “We never thought this would be easy, and that’s why consultations continue.”

Pompeo is now on his way to Tokyo, the next leg of his journey across Asia.

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