U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday to make sure the two allies are on the same page before Pompeo travels to North Korea, where he’ll be under pressure to push Pyongyang toward giving up its nuclear weapons.
Pompeo’s diplomatic offensive in Asia comes as President Donald Trump seeks to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a second time after their June summit in Singapore.
Pompeo told Abe that it is important for him to hear from the Japanese leader “so we have a fully coordinated and unified view” to successfully denuclearize North Korea. He will also meet with his Japanese counterpart, Foreign Minister Taro Kono, later Saturday before heading to Pyongyang on Sunday. Tokyo is the first stop of his three-day East Asia tour, which also takes him to South Korea and China.
In Beijing, Pompeo will face tensions over trade and accusations of election interference. In contrast, Pompeo’s meetings with Abe and Kono should be more relaxed.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Friday that they planned to work on deepening their cooperation in their efforts to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization. He did not elaborate.
The real diplomatic test for Pompeo will come in Pyongyang. He is expected to meet with Kim Jong Un and one of his most trusted aides, Kim Young Chol, a former intelligence official.
Speaking on his plane Friday, Pompeo said his mission was to “make sure that we understand what each side is truly trying to achieve … and how we can deliver against the commitments that were made” in Singapore. He said they would develop options, if not finalize, the location and timing of a second Trump-Kim summit.
Trump and Kim made a vague “denuclearization” agreement at their summit but are deadlocked over how to achieve it.
Pompeo has repeatedly refused to discuss details of negotiations, including a U.S. position on North Korea’s demand for a declared end to the Korean War. He has also distanced himself from an earlier stated goal of achieving North Korea’s nuclear weapons abandonment by the end of Trump’s term in January 2021.
North Korea so far has suspended nuclear and missile tests, freed three American prisoners and dismantled parts of a missile engine facility and tunnel entrances at a nuclear test site. It has not taken any steps to halt nuclear weapons or missile development.
North Korea also has accused Washington of making “unilateral and gangster-like” demands on denuclearization and insisted that sanctions should be lifted before any progress in nuclear talks.
On Friday, North and South Korea held a high-level meeting in Pyongyang to discuss the implementation of agreements their leaders made at a summit last month, which included reducing threats between their militaries. North Korea also said it may dismantle its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex if the U.S. takes unspecified corresponding measures.