Pompeo begins North Korea trip to firm up denuclearization plans


WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to North Korea on Thursday with the hopes of nailing down a road map for dismantling Kim Jong Un's nuclear weapons program.

In what will be his fourth meeting with North Korean officials in three months, the trip comes amid reports citing U.S. intelligence officials that Pyongyang does not intend to give up its nuclear weapons program and is actively working to deceive the U.S.

Pompeo is expected to have a day and a half of meetings on this third visit to North Korea and make his first overnight stay in the country.

The secretary of state also plans to travel to Tokyo to meet with Japanese officials before continuing on to Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates and finally Belgium to meet President Donald Trump at the NATO Summit next week.

Declining to speak to intelligence matters, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters last week, "We're in a good spot. We're all keeping a close eye. The secretary has been very clear and very blunt with the North Koreans about what he expects."

Thursday's meetings will be the highest level discussions between U.S. and North Korea since the historic summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore last month.

There, the two leaders signed a joint statement agreeing to "work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," but the document included no details on the location of the nuclear weapons program, how it would be dismantled or how that dismantling would be verified.

Trump declared shortly after his return from Singapore "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea," and "the problem is largely solved," and tweeted recently: "Trump Many good conversations with North Korea — it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!"

But, as first reported by NBC News, U.S. intelligence officials believe that the North Korean government continues to its expand its nuclear weapons activities, increasing production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months. The officials also said Kim may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration.

In an interview with CBS Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Pompeo would discuss with the North Koreans "how to dismantle all of their WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and ballistic missile programs in a year."

The State Department said the U.S. will not provide a timeline.

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Yongbyon Nuclear Complex in North Korea
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Yongbyon Nuclear Complex in North Korea
YONGBYON, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 29, 2013: This is a satellite image of the 5 MWe Reactor at Yongbyon Nuclear Complex in North Korea collected on March 29, 2013. (Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 25, 2018: Figure 11. Groups of personnel observed throughout the complex. Mandatory credit for all images: DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24, 2015: Figure 5. A facility near Tohwa-ri. This DigitalGlobe image is from the Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory complex and was featured in the article, Suspicious Activity at Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory; Progress Towards Completing the Experimental Light Water Reactor, published on 38 North on April 4, 2016. Photo date: May 24, 2015 Mandatory credit: Image � 2016 DigitalGlobe/38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JAN 14, 2011: Figure 6A. Construction of administration buildings from 2011-2015. This DigitalGlobe image is from the Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory complex and was featured in the article, Suspicious Activity at Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory; Progress Towards Completing the Experimental Light Water Reactor, published on 38 North on April 4, 2016. Photo date: January 14, 2011. Mandatory credit: Image � 2016 DigitalGlobe/38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 27, 2016: Figure 6A. Centrifuge Building and support buildings at the Uranium Enrichment Complex appear to be in operation. Date: October 27, 2016. Mandatory credit for all images: DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JAN 14, 2011: Figure 7A. Construction of livestock halls from 2011-2015. This DigitalGlobe image is from the Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory complex and was featured in the article, Suspicious Activity at Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory; Progress Towards Completing the Experimental Light Water Reactor, published on 38 North on April 4, 2016. Photo date: January 14, 2011. Mandatory credit: Image � 2016 DigitalGlobe/38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24, 2015: Figure 7B. Construction of livestock halls from 2011-2015. This DigitalGlobe image is from the Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory complex and was featured in the article, Suspicious Activity at Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory; Progress Towards Completing the Experimental Light Water Reactor, published on 38 North on April 4, 2016. Photo date: May 24, 2015. Mandatory credit: Image � 2016 DigitalGlobe/38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - DECEMBER 2, 2013: ISIS analysis Digital Globe imagery showing continued construction work at a site located between the fuel fabrication complex and the Radiochemical Laboratory, or plutonium separation plant at North Koreas Yongbyon site on December 2, 2013. (Photo DigitalGlobe/ISIS via Getty Images).
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - MAY 24, 2015: Figure 7. Administration buildings. This DigitalGlobe image is from the Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory complex and was featured in the article, Suspicious Activity at Yongbyon Radiochemical Laboratory; Progress Towards Completing the Experimental Light Water Reactor, published on 38 North on April 4, 2016. Photo date: May 24, 2015. Mandatory credit: Image � 2016 DigitalGlobe/38 North.
YONGBYON, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 27, 2013: This is a satellite image of the 5 MWe Reactor at Yongbyon Nuclear Complex in North Korea collected on March 27, 2013. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON, NORTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 13, 2012: This is a satellite image of the 5 MWe Reactor at Yongbyon Nuclear Complex in North Korea collected on November 13, 2012. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 27, 2013: This is a satellite image of the 5 MWe Reactor at Yongbyon Nuclear Complex in North Korea collected on March 27, 2013. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON, NORTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 7, 2013: This is a satellite image of the 5 MWe Reactor at Yongbyon Nuclear Complex in North Korea collected on February 7, 2013. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38North via Getty Images)
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"I know some individuals have given timelines; we're not going to provide a timeline," Nauert said Tuesday. "A lot of work is left to be done. Certainly, we go in eyes wide open, with a very clear view of these conversations."

Gordon Chang, author of "Nuclear showdown, North Korea takes on the world," told MSNBC's Steve Kornacki that success for Pompeo would be receiving a document outlining the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

"Anything short of that is basically, I think, essentially the North Koreans just sort of trying to drag this process out," Chang said last week.

Former U.S. ambassador to North Korea, Christopher Hill, said Pompeo bringing home such document would be more than success.

"It would be Christmas," Hill said. "But the reality is they are not going to get those things."

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