SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. 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 U.S. President Donald Trump, a South Korean official said on Wednesday.
FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows Mike Pompeo (L) in Washington, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) in Pyongyang, North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump (R), in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., respectively from Reuters files. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (L) & KCNA handout via Reuters & Kevin Lamarque (R)
Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday from Japan and headed to the Koryo Hotel in the North Korean capital for meetings, a U.S. media pool report said.
Trump earlier broke the news of Pompeoâ€™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, although he stopped short of providing details.
An official at South Koreaâ€™s presidential Blue House said Pompeo was expected to finalize the date of the summit and secure the release of the three American detainees.
While Trump said it would be a â€œgreat thingâ€� if the American detainees were freed, Pompeo told reporters en route to Pyongyang he had not received such a commitment but hoped North Korea would â€œdo the right thingâ€�.
â€œWeâ€™ll talk about it again today,â€� he said. â€œI think itâ€™d be a great gesture if they would choose to do so.â€�
The pending U.S.-North Korea summit has sparked a flurry of diplomacy, with Japan, South Korea and China holding a high-level meeting on Wednesday.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said concerned parties should seize the opportunity to promote denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who attended the meeting along with South Korean President Moon Jae-In, said his nation would normalize ties with North Korea if the nuclear and missile issues, along with that of the abduction of Japanese citizens, were solved comprehensively.
â€œWe must take the recent momentum toward denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and toward peace and security in Northeast Asia, and, cooperating even further with international society, make sure this is linked to concrete action by North Korea,â€� Abe told a news conference after the meeting.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to remarks made by President Donald Trump during Pompeo’s swearing-in ceremony at the Department of State in Washington, U.S., May 2, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens decades ago to train spies. Five have returned to Japan.
TEACHERS, MISSIONARY HELD
The three U.S. detainees 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 Trumpâ€™s presidency has been Otto Warmbier, a 22â€”year-old university student who returned to the United States in a coma last summer after 17 months of captivity and died days later.
Warmbierâ€™s death escalated U.S.-North Korea tensions, already running high at the time over Pyongyangâ€™s stepped-up missile tests.
The groundwork for the potential release of the three remaining American detainees was laid two months ago when North Koreaâ€™s foreign minister traveled to Sweden and proposed the idea, CNN reported earlier, citing an unidentified source.
Pompeoâ€™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 Koreaâ€™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 â€œphasedâ€� and â€œsynchronizedâ€� 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 Kimâ€™s visit to China during a phone call on Tuesday morning, the White House said.
Korea: a land divided – tmsnrt.rs/2KfOFYQ
Additional reporting reporting by Ju-min Park in SEOUL Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Paul Tait