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Bolton hints at another trip to Pyongyang soon for Pompeo

Aug 09,2018
U.S. President Donald Trump has offered to send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang again to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and continue negotiations on dismantling its nuclear weapons program, the White House national security adviser said on Tuesday.

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is prepared to go back to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un,” John Bolton said in an interview on Fox News. “We’ve proposed that in our most recent letter from the president to Kim Jong-un.”

The letter was hand-delivered to North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho last Saturday at the Asean Regional Forum in Singapore, which Pompeo also attended.

However, the U.S. State Department’s spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said on Tuesday, “We have no trips, no travel to announce.”

Pompeo last visited Pyongyang in early July but returned with little apparent progress in denuclearization after the landmark June summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore.

“The U.S. has lived up to the Singapore declaration,” Bolton told Fox News. “It’s just North Korea that has not taken the steps that we feel are necessary to denuclearize.”

Bolton added that Washington was “going to continue to apply maximum pressure to North Korea until they denuclearize, just as we are to Iran.”

The United States withdrew from the Iran deal signed by President Barack Obama in 2015. The nuclear accord included China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

The Trump administration reinstated some of the sanctions on Iran on Tuesday and plans to expand them in the coming weeks. Bolton’s reference to the Iran example indicates that Washington is capable of reneging on its nuclear deals at any time.

The remark also came as North Korean Foreign Minister Ri met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Iran on Tuesday to build stronger ties between the two countries.

Bolton’s stern remarks conflict in tone with Pompeo’s testimony to a Senate committee last week that there was “progress” since the June summit. Pompeo said “the ultimate timeline for denuclearization” would be set by Kim “at least in part.”

The contrast suggests a rift between hard-liners like Bolton and the State Department, which is leading negotiations with North Korea. Bolton said this week in an interview on “Fox News Sunday” that it was Kim who first suggested a one-year timeline on denuclearization during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April, though the South Korean government would not confirm Bolton’s claim.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]