September 24, 2018

US Softens Tone Ahead of Pompeo's North Korea Visit

06 July 2018, 07:41 | Darnell Patrick

US Marines help a wounded buddy on the Naktong River front in South Korea in 1950 Credit AP

US Marines help a wounded buddy on the Naktong River front in South Korea in 1950

Pompoe's team includes a mix of State Department, White House, Pentagon and intelligence officials, including the CIA's Andy Kim, a longtime Korea specialist, Randall Schriver, a senior Pentagon official for Asia, and Sung Kim, a USA diplomat who has been splitting his time between his ambassadorship in the Philippines and the North Korea talks.

Relations between North and South Korea continued to rebound on Wednesday as the two longtime foes engaged in some basketball diplomacy for the first time in 15 years, according to a report.

A day after the summit, Trump announced that the USA was canceling joint military exercises with South Korea that the North has traditionally called practice for an invasion.

Teams named Peace and Prosperity made up of a mix of North and South Korean athletes played at a 12,000-seat gymnasium in the North's capital, Pyongyang.

The two sides will also discuss the timing of the North's dismantlement of the Tongchang-ri missile engine test site and whether to allow USA monitors to observe the process.

In a welcoming speech before the games Wednesday, Kim Il-guk, chairman of the DPRK Olympic Committee, said the competition was the result of both countries' leaders' "high will to tear down the wall of separation and advance independent reunification", as well as the peoples' "heated" passion to come together as one. It is Pompeo's third visit this year to North Korea and the first where he will stay overnight.

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North Korea has said it will not comply with Tokyo's request for a resolution of the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the North decades ago unless Tokyo lifts unilateral economic sanctions, sources close to bilateral ties said Thursday. Pompeo hopes to press North Korea to work toward a timetable to end its nuclear program and lay out details of how verification of that can be carried out.

On Thursday, the State Department denied any change in Washington's negotiating position.

Reportedly, the U.S. is softening its tone substantially in the talks, getting away from demands for a "complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization" as the goal, now calling for a "final, fully verified denuclearization" at the end of the process.

Trump, however, has continued to boast of the results of the summit, even in the face of skepticism from some US lawmakers.

They were matches between teams made up of a mixture of North and South Korean players.

United Nations Command has at least one phone "hotline" open at the Demilitarized Zone splitting the two Koreas while waiting to bring the remains of USA service members, but there has been no communication at all yet with the North Koreans, said a US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation. Diplomats familiar with the talks, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions, said progress on negotiations with the North Koreans has been slow, and the two sides have not even begun to form a shared understanding of what denuclearization would look like. These moves helped build budding ties with the United States, but many experts say North Korea must take much stronger steps to prove it's serious about denuclearization.

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