Pompeo arrived for a refueling stop at Yokota Air Base in Japan on his way to Pyongyang for the third time since April and the first since the June 12 summit. His mission is to translate the upbeat rhetoric following the first meeting between leaders of the US and North Korea into concrete action that will eliminate the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear arsenal. “Our leaders made commitments at the Singapore summit on the complete denuclearization of North Korea and outlined what a transformed US-DPRK relationship could look like,” he said, according to comments relayed to reporters on his plane by spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
DPRK is the abbreviation of the authoritarian nation’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “Since the summit the consultations have continued. On this trip I’m seeking to fill in some details on these commitments and continue the momentum towards implementation of what the two leaders promised each other and the world. I expect that the DPRK is ready to do the same,” Pompeo said.
Over the past quarter-century, North Korea has frustrated or outfoxed U.S. administrations that have attempted to stop and reverse its weapons development through diplomacy and sanctions. Since the summit, doubts over the North’s intentions have grown again, amid reports that it is continuing to expand facilities related to its nuclear and missile programs and that U.S. intelligence is skeptical about its intentions to give up its weapons.
Trump himself has remained upbeat. Asked Thursday if North Korea was hiding nuclear facilities the president said: “We’ll see. All I can tell you is this. You haven’t had one missile launch and you haven’t had one rocket launch or you haven’t had any nuclear tests.” Speaking aboard Air Force One on a trip to Montana, Trump said he believed he forged a personal connection with the young autocrat he once pilloried as “Little Rocket Man.” “I had a very good feeling about him. … I shook his hand, I felt we got along very well,” Trump told reporters. “I think we understand each other. I really believe that he sees a different future for North Korea. … I hope that’s true. If it’s not true, then we go back to the other way, but I don’t think that’s going to be necessary.”
It will be Pompeo’s mission to put that proposition to the test and help lay to rest doubts over whether the president, who has already ordered a suspension of large-scale US military drills with South Korea, is overeager to make his engagement with Kim appear a success.