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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 28)

All Headlines 07:03 September 28, 2018

Kim's invitation
Pompeo to visit Pyongyang next month

The U.S. and North Korea are moving quickly to resume high-level nuclear negotiations on the heels of the successful Sept.18-20 inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The Pyongyang Declaration made at the third Moon-Kim meeting provided momentum for the stalled U.S.-North Korea negotiations. Both sides are eager for a second U.S.-North Korea summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim.

It looks like the second Trump-Kim meeting is imminent with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo planning to visit North Korea next month. In a Sept. 26 statement, the U.S. Department of State confirmed that Secretary Pompeo had accepted an invitation from the North Korean leader to visit Pyongyang in October to "prepare for a second summit" between Trump and Kim. The statement was released after Pompeo met North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho in New York. The top U.S. diplomat's trip will focus on the "implementation of the commitments from the U.S.-DPRK Singapore summit, including the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DPRK."

The mood between the two countries has certainly changed since August when Secretary Pompeo's planned trip to Pyongyang was canceled amid a deadlock in denuclearization talks. The canceled trip triggered concerns that the denuclearization talks were on the brink of falling apart, and that U.S.-North Korea relations could return to the state they were in before the June 12 summit in Singapore. The last time Pompeo visited Pyongyang was in July, but he failed to meet with Kim and returned without any real progress in the denuclearization process.

As North Korea has been slow to take tangible steps toward denuclearization even after the Singapore summit, there has been mounting criticism about the effectiveness of the U.S.-North Korea summit. Conservative media in Korea and the U.S. have mocked it as nothing more than a political show. But there are also rising expectations that a second summit may be different after the renewed commitment toward denuclearization Kim showed during his meeting with Moon last week.

In the Pyongyang Declaration, Kim mentioned "corresponding measures" from the U.S. as conditions for additional steps to denuclearize. The U.S. is still firm that denuclearization has to come first. With the positive mood created by the third inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang, it is timely for the U.S. and North Korea to engage in productive communication to narrow the gap in their nuclear negotiations. This time, Kim should meet Pompeo and produce a detailed and convincing roadmap for complete denuclearization.
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