US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to return from North Korea with three American detainees, as well as details of an upcoming summit between leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump, a South Korean official said Wednesday.
Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Wednesday from Japan and headed to the city’s Koryo Hotel for meetings, a US media pool report said.
Trump earlier broke the news of Pompeo’s second visit to North Korea in less than six weeks and said the two countries had agreed on a date and location for the summit, though he stopped short of providing details.
An official at South Korea’s presidential Blue House said Pompeo was expected to finalize the date of the summit, and secure the release of three American detainees.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to return from North Korea with three American detainees, as well as details of an upcoming summit between leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump. Pompeo (left) and Kim are seen during a meeting last month
US citizen Kim Hak-song was detained ‘on suspicion of acts against the state’
Kim Dong-chul, pictured above, left and right, has been detained since 2015. He was arrested for spying and has since been sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor
While Trump said it would be a ‘great thing’ if the American detainees were freed, Pompeo, speaking to reporters en route to Pyongyang, said he had not received such a commitment but hoped North Korea would ‘do the right thing.’
‘We’ll talk about it again today,’ he said.
‘I think it’d be a great gesture if they would choose to do so.’
The three still being held are Korean-American missionary Kim Dong-chul; Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, who spent a month teaching at the foreign-funded Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) before he was arrested in 2017; and Kim Hak-song, who also taught at PUST.
Until now, the only American released by North Korea during Trump’s presidency has been Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old university student who returned to the US in a coma last summer after 17 months of captivity and died days later.
Warmbier’s death escalated US-North Korea tensions, already running high at the time over Pyongyang’s stepped-up missile tests.
The groundwork for the potential release of the three remaining American detainees was laid two months ago when North Korea’s foreign minister traveled to Sweden and proposed the idea, CNN reported earlier, citing an unnamed source.
Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-Duk, a Korean-American professor and aid worker
Pompeo’s visit comes a day after Kim Jong-un made his second trip to China in less than two months, meeting President Xi Jinping and discussing the ongoing international talks over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
During the visit, announced only after it was over, Kim told Xi he hoped relevant parties would take ‘phased’ and ‘synchronized’ measures to realize denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula, according to Chinese state media.
Separately, Trump and Xi discussed developments on the Korean peninsula and Kim’s visit to China during a phone call on Tuesday morning, the White House said.
He appeared to hold out the potential thaw as an alternate way forward for Iran, even as he blasted Tehran’s support for terrorism and said the regime would never be allowed to have a nuclear bomb.
‘Today’s action sends a critical message. The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises I keep them,’ Trump said, speaking from the White House to announce his decision.
Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Wednesday from Japan and headed to the city’s Koryo Hotel for meetings, a US media pool report said
‘In fact, at this very moment Secretary Pompeo is on his way to North Korea in preparation for my upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un,’ the president revealed.
Then he talked up North Korea – a regime frequently for held up to ridicule as among the most isolated, impoverished, and despotic on the globe – but where U.S. officials hope to achieve real progress following a series of North Korea nuclear weapons tests.
‘Plans are being made, relationships are building,’ said Trump. ‘Hopefully a deal will happen and with the help of China, South Korea, and Japan, a future of great prosperity and security can be achieved for everyone,’ Trump said.
‘When I make promises I keep them,’ Trump said
‘Plans are being made, relationships are building,’ said Trump, who plans to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un soon
After his remarks, Trump addressed another nagging issue – hostage taking of Americans, something he also called out Iran for.
Asked about the potential release of three Americans held in North Korea, a subject of long negotiations by diplomats, Trump said: ‘It would be a great thing if they are – we’ll soon be finding out.’
‘He will be there very shortly in a matter of virtual, probably an hour,’ Trump said.
‘We have our meeting set. The location is picked. The time and date, everything is picked,’ Trump said, speaking of his upcoming summit. ‘And we look forward to have a really great success. WE think relationships are building with North Korea. We’ll see how it all works out. Maybe it won’t.’
Pompeo also addressed the subject to reporters traveling with him.
‘We have been asking for the release of these detainees for – this administration for 17 months. We’ll talk about it again today. I think it’d be a great gesture if they would choose to do so,’ he said, asked about their release.
Asked if he could have a summit if North Korea is still holding Americans, he said: ‘We’re hopeful we don’t have to cross that road.’
Trump has not yet said where the summit will be held, although on Twitter he floated the idea of doing it in the DMZ.
Pompeo’s trip to North Korea comes in advance of a planned meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un
New national security advisor John Bolton – who was on hand for Trump’s speech – declined to say whether freeing of the U.S. hostages was a condition for the presidential-level talks to go forward.
‘I’d rather not speculate on that. Secretary Pompeo is almost on the ground in North Korea. He is the president’s negotiator,’ said Bolton.
‘The purpose of the mission is to prepare for the next meetings, the president has said on any number of occasions he wants the hostages released, and that hasn’t changed,’ he said, responding to a question from DailyMail.com about the reasons for Pompeo’s visit.
Trump’s willingness to embrace North Korea on the eve of talks came in a speech laced with criticism of Iran for its own previous secretive nuclear program – which never achieved the advancement the North Koreans were able to display with repeated ballistic missile launches and underground nuclear explosions.
U.S. counterterrorism officials have warned that North Korea could likely reach the continental United States with a missile, and until the recent thaw, it routinely harassed neighboring Japan by lobbing missiles into the coastal waters.
The nation has experienced widespread famines over the years, and Kim is believed to have killed his own uncle in a power struggle while constructing a cult of personality and iron rule.
Trump made his announcement as he denounced the ‘lunacy of an Iranian bomb.’
He said of the Iran deal – which subjected Tehran to sanctions and put sever limits on its uranium enrichment to try to hold it to peaceful purposes: ‘The fact is this was a horrible one sided deal that should have never ever been made.’
Pompeo tweeted long after Trump broke the news of his trip and even his arrival time: ‘Headed back to #DPRK at the invitation of the North Korean leadership. I look forward to planning a successful summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un,’ using the formal name for the country.