Pompeo downplays possibility of summit with North Korea

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

SEOUL – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo downplayed the possibility of another summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before the U.S. presidential election, saying Trump would only want to engage if there were real prospects of progress.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has called for another Trump-Kim meeting ahead of the election in November, acknowledged Thursday that U.S. and South Korean relations with North Korea were still like “walking on ice” after two years of high-stakes summitry.

During a parliamentary speech, Moon urged North Korea to return to inter-Korean dialogue, which has also stalled, and called for South Korean lawmakers to support government policies aimed at reviving cross-border cooperation. He made no direct comment on the prospects for U.S.-North Korea talks.

Pompeo’s comments during a forum in Washington on Wednesday followed repeated North Korean statements insisting it would no longer gift Trump high-profile meetings he could boast as foreign policy achievements when it’s not being substantially rewarded in return.

“The North Koreans have given mixed signals, but 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 during the event hosted by The Hill, referring to the first Trump-Kim summit in June 2018.

“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.”

Trump and Kim have met three times since embarking on high-stakes nuclear diplomacy in 2018, beginning with their meeting in Singapore where they issued vague vows for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur.

But negotiations have faltered since their second summit in February 2019, where the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capability.