Pompeo's North Korea comeback
Even as speculation is rife that Kim Jong-un is in no hurry to begin denuclearisation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to North Korea this week. The top US diplomat will fly to Pyongyang on July 5 to meet the North Korean leader and his team. It will be his third known trip to North Korea as the US continues to push for a deal that will "dismantle" Pyongyang's nuclear programme, potentially reducing tensions on the peninsula and recasting the geopolitical landscape of East Asia following the June 12 Singapore summit between Kim and Trump. During his trip, Pompeo will continue consultations and implement the "forward progress" made by Trump and Kim in Singapore, according to the State Department. The news comes amid a flurry of new questions over Kim's commitment to denuclearise, as leaked reports from US intelligence officials and analysis of open source satellite imagery appear to cast doubt on North Korea's willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons programme. The Defence Intelligence Agency believes Kim has no intention of engaging in a full denuclearisation programme, at least for now. The Trump administration plans to present the North Koreans with a detailed list of "tasks" they must undertake to begin a denuclearisation process. Asked specifically whether Trump still trusts Kim, the administration was non-committal. Meanwhile, US national security adviser John Bolton said that North Korea's nuclear arsenal could be dismantled in a year if Pyongyang cooperates, adding that the programme would require "full disclosure of all (of North Korea's) chemical and biological, nuclear programmes, ballistic missile sites. "We have developed a programme. I am sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans about how to dismantle all of their (weapons of mass destruction) and ballistic missile programmes in a year," Bolton said. "It is to North Korea's advantage to dismantle very quickly. Then the elimination of sanctions, aid by South Korea and Japan and others can all begin to flower," he added. Interestingly, Pompeo did not answer when asked by lawmakers last week about the specific conditions that the administration has set for North Korea to achieve its denuclearisation and secure economic concessions. "I think it would be inappropriate and, frankly, counterproductive to achieving the end state that we're hoping to achieve." That is but natural given that Kim has all the cards and he would like to play them his way. Indeed, such an outcome should hardly surprise any seasoned observer who has kept a sharp eye on how the Singapore Summit has evolved. The leader from the West did almost all the talking, sometimes even on behalf of his Eastern counterpart. The bemused man from Pyongyang kept mum and occasionally smiled.