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Pompeo leaves door open to possible U.S.-North Korea summit despite tensions

by Reuters
Thursday, 9 July 2020 15:23 GMT

(Updates with Pompeo comments)

By Matt Spetalnick and Hyonhee Shin

WASHINGTON/SEOUL, July 9 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday he was "very hopeful" about resuming talks with North Korea and appeared to leave open the possibility of another summit between the countries' leaders, despite Pyongyang saying it has no intention of returning to negotiations.

Winding up three days of talks in Seoul, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun earlier rejected speculation he was seeking to meet North Korean officials during his visit, but said the United States was open to talks.

Amid long-stalled U.S. efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, Pompeo said the United States was continuing its efforts to re-establish dialogue with Pyongyang but declined to provide specifics.

"We're very hopeful that we can continue to have this conversation, whether that's at levels beneath the summit, or if it's appropriate and there is a useful activity to take place, to have senior leaders get back together as well," Pompeo told reporters in Washington when asked whether another summit is possible before the U.S. presidential election in November.

"As for who and how, timing, I just don't want to talk about that today," Pompeo added.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, raising hopes for a negotiated end to North Korea's nuclear program. But their second summit, in 2019 in Vietnam, and later working-level talks, fell apart.

Trump said on Tuesday he was open to another meeting with Kim and thought it might be helpful, Voice of America said, citing a transcript of Trump's interview with Gray Television, due to be aired on Sunday.

But North Korea, apparently frustrated that there has been no sign of any easing of punishing sanctions against it, has said in recent weeks it had no intention of sitting down again with the United States.

Biegun, the top U.S. envoy on North Korea, met South Korea's national security adviser, Suh Hoon, on Thursday and reaffirmed "continued U.S. readiness to engage in dialogue" with North Korea, the State Department said in a statement.

South Korea has been trying to promote peace efforts and Suh was instrumental in arranging summits between Trump and Kim.

Tensions flared last month when North Korea blew up a joint North-South liaison office on its side of the border, before dropping a threat of military action against the South. (Reporting by Josh Smith, Hyonhee Shin and Matt Spetalnick; Additional reporting by Sangmi Cha in Seoul, Daphne Psaledakis, Jonathan Landay, Makini Brice and Susan Heavey in Washington Editing by Robert Birsel and Alistair Bell)

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