US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to hold talks with North Korea

On top of the agenda would be the scheduling of a possible second summit between two countries' leaders

Photo: EPA US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

North Korean senior official Kim Yong Chol arrives in Washington on Thursday or Friday to hold high-level talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. During his visit, Kim is also expected to meet President Donald Trump. As South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reports, the meetings are aimed at paving the way for a second summit between the leaders of both countries, following a prolonged stalemate in nuclear talks.

According to the newspaper, for the summit to happen, Washington is considering partially easing sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the isolated nation discarding, or sending abroad, its intercontinental ballistic missiles, as an addition to the adoption of a “nuclear freeze.”

“If North Korea accepts, it’s a realisable scenario,” the media quoted its unnamed diplomatic source on the matter.

Potential US corresponding action also includes exemptions from sanctions for inter-Korean business and tour ventures, and opening a liaison office as a prelude to a formal launch of diplomatic relations, Seoul officials said.

"Those ideas are being discussed as interim measures, not as an end state, in order to expedite the denuclearisation process because the North wouldn't respond to any demand for a declaration of facilities and weapons," a senior South Korean official said, continuing that the end goal remains unchanged - "whether it be complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation, or final, fully verified denuclearisation."

If confirmed, this week's meeting could mean the two sides are nearing a compromise after a months-long stand-off over how to move forward in ending North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. Pompeo, who made several trips to Pyongyang last year, sought to meet his counterpart last November, but the talks were called off at the last minute.

Contact was resumed after Kim's New Year's speech, in which he said he was willing to meet Trump "at any time" and after Trump said this month he had received a "great" letter from Kim and would probably meet him again in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, South Korea has stopped calling North Korea an "enemy" in its biennial defense document in an apparent effort to continue reconciliation with Pyongyang. South Korea's defense white paper published Tuesday, Seoul time, doesn't include its typical term labelling North Korea its "enemy, "present enemy" or "main enemy". The terminologies have been a source of animosity between the Koreas because the North called it a provocation that demonstrated how hostile the South was.

South Korea first called North Korea a "main enemy" in its 1995 document, a year after North Korea threatened to turn Seoul into "sea of fire".

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