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Secretary Of State Pompeo Meets With South Korean Counterpart

May 11, 2018
Originally published on May 11, 2018 5:04 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We are closing out a dramatic week for diplomacy in Asia. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Pyongyang, picked up three American prisoners and brought them back to the U.S., thus setting the stage for President Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Pompeo says if North Korea chooses to give up its nuclear weapons, it could have a future brimming with peace and prosperity.

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MIKE POMPEO: If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize, the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on the par with our South Korean friends.

KELLY: Pompeo was speaking alongside his South Korean counterpart at the State Department today, which is where we find NPR's Michele Kelemen. Hey, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: Hey. So before we talk South Korea, start with this latest Pyongyang trip that Pompeo has made. It's the second time this spring he's flown to meet Kim Jong Un. Did he talk today about that relationship?

KELEMEN: Yeah. I mean, he spent more time with Kim Jong Un than any other U.S. official for sure. And he used words like warm and substantive, which was a bit surprising coming from this, you know, tough-talking former congressman and CIA director. And he also says he told Kim that the U.S. and North Korea don't have to be enemies forever.

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POMPEO: We talked about the fact that America has often in history had adversaries who we are now close partners with and our hope that we could achieve the same with respect to North Korea.

KELEMEN: So Pompeo says he thinks that he has a pretty good understanding with Kim about what the mutual objectives are. He says they talked about the decision that Kim has before him. Is he prepared to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for the kind of assurances that the U.S. is ready to provide?

KELLY: All right, to the South Korean foreign minister's visit here today, what message has she brought to Washington?

KELEMEN: It's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, and she talked about the need for airtight coordination between the U.S. and South Korea. She says there can't be any daylight on this topic and on in particular the presence of U.S. forces in her country. Let's take a listen to that.

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KANG KYUNG-WHA: Any issue of the alliance, including the troop presence in our country, is a matter for our two allies to discuss and not to be put on the table with North Korea.

KELEMEN: And Kang also says that North Korea shouldn't expect any sanctions relief until it takes visible steps to denuclearize. Now, she was here, by the way, also to plan for her president's trip to Washington later this month.

KELLY: Talk to me a little bit about the plans for the Trump-Kim summit. As we've said, it's set for June 12 - so a month and a day from now. What is each side looking for in the run-up to those talks?

KELEMEN: Well, at least for the U.S. it's, you know, really a deal - what Pompeo said - like none other before it. It would be a complete denuclearization with a robust verification program. He calls it a big undertaking. But he said he thinks Kim has a good understanding of what the U.S. means by all of that. Of course that's what we're hearing from the U.S. side. We don't hear those same kind of words from North Korea. So we'll have to see what they're ready to undertake here.

KELLY: Thanks, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

KELLY: That's NPR's Michele Kelemen reporting from the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.