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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected calls by North Korea that he be removed from the Trump administration’s negotiations with Kim Jong Un’s regime, saying “nothing’s changed” on the U.S. diplomatic team handling talks.
“I’m still in charge of the team,” Pompeo said Friday in his first response to the demand by a senior North Korean official who accused the top American diplomat of “fabricating stories like a fiction writer” that undermined talks between Kim and President Donald Trump.
The regime often has criticized Pompeo — sometimes fulminating that he was making “gangster-like demands” — but before Thursday it hadn’t called for him to be banned from talks.
“President Trump’s obviously in charge of the overall effort” in trying to persuade Korea to denuclearize, Pompeo said. “I’m convinced we still have a real opportunity to achieve that outcome.”
Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan spoke at the State Department alongside their Japanese counterparts. The two sides met ahead of a meeting between Trump and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that’s scheduled to take place at the White House between April 26 and 27 and a planned state visit by Trump to Japan on May 25 to 28.
Even as the U.S. and Japan met to strengthen their commitment to “the final, fully verified denuclearization” of North Korea, the Kremlin confirmed that Kim would meet President Vladimir Putin in Russia later this month.
The meeting suggested that Kim, frustrated with the U.S., was trying to show he had alternative sources of support.
North Korea’s statement, along with the announcement of a test of a “new-type tactical guided weapon,” appeared to be part of a push by Kim to regain leverage after Trump walked away from their second summit in Hanoi without a disarmament deal. Talks broke down over disagreements over the value of Kim’s offer to close some nuclear facilities and U.S. efforts to protect the sanctions regime against North Korea.
North Korea has repeatedly directed its ire at Trump’s top foreign policy aides, Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, while lavishing praise on the president and expressing an eagerness to deal with him one-on-one.
Trump has reciprocated, tweeting on April 13 that “I agree with Kim Jong Un of North Korea that our personal relationship remains very good, perhaps the term excellent would be even more accurate, and that a third Summit would be good in that we fully understand where we each stand.”
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