WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to travel to North Korea next week to discuss the country’s denuclearization plans, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing four people familiar with his plans.
U.S. officials said Pompeo had canceled a July 6 meeting with his Indian counterpart in Washington to fly to Pyongyang, the newspaper reported. It would be his first trip to North Korea since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held an unprecedented June 12 summit in Singapore.
A State Department official would not confirm the Financial Times report and told Reuters there were no travels plans to announce.
Pompeo, who has been charged with leading negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to give up a nuclear program that has been the source of international tension for decades, traveled twice to North Korea to set up the Singapore summit. He said last week he likely would go back “before too terribly long” to try to flesh out commitments made at the Trump-Kim meeting.
On Wednesday, Pompeo told lawmakers he was confident Pyongyang understood the scope of the U.S. desire for North Korea’s complete denuclearization as the two countries negotiate after the summit.
“We’ve been pretty unambiguous in our conversations about what we mean when we say complete denuclearization,” Pompeo told a Senate subcommittee hearing.
Before Trump became the first U.S. president to meet a North Korean leader, he and Kim had exchanged a series of personal insults and war threats. Since that meeting, Trump has been criticized by security analysts for agreeing to a joint statement that yielded no details on how Pyongyang, which has rejected unilateral disarmament, would surrender its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
A day after that summit Trump said on Twitter there “is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Pompeo characterized the situation by telling the Senate subcommittee that “we have reduced risk.”
Trump said last week that North Korea was blowing up four of its big test sites and that a process of “total denuclearization ... has already started,” but officials said there was no evidence of such activity since the summit.
Critics say the Singapore agreement was short on detail and Trump made too many concessions to Kim, especially agreeing to stop military exercises with South Korea, which the North has long sought.
On Thursday, Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, appeared to question how much had been achieved, telling the India Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi:
“At the United Nations (Security Council) we haven’t even so much as done any sort of press statement, any sort of congratulations. We have not acknowledged the summit because nothing has happened.”
Haley said sanctions aimed at pressing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons would remain, adding: “We need to see full actions on denuclearization, otherwise the sanctions will remain where they are.”
This week, a Washington-based North Korean monitoring project, 38 North, said recent satellite imagery showed North Korea had made rapid improvements to facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex in the period since May 6, although it could not say if such work had continued after June 12.
On Sunday, Pompeo told CNN he would not put a timeline on negotiations for North Korea’s denuclearization, contradicting a senior defense official who said Washington would soon present a timeline to North Korea with “specific asks.”
Pompeo told reporters the day after the Singapore summit Washington hoped to achieve “major disarmament” by North Korea within Trump’s current term, which ends on Jan. 20, 2021.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton, David Brunnstrom and Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New Delhi; Editing by Bill Trott
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