SINGAPORE (CBS NEWS) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefed reporters Monday morning in Singapore to give an update on preparations for President Donald Trump’s historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The two leaders are to meet on Tuesday at the luxury Capella Hotel resort on Singapore’s Sentosa Island.
U.S. officials have said the leaders will meet privately on Tuesday before holding an expanded bilateral meeting with their respective advisers.
Mr. Trump will become the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader when he sits down with Kim in Singapore. While the ultimate goal for the U.S. is complete, permanent and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, how that might be achieved in these talks remains an open question.
The president views the meeting as the first of perhaps several meetings with Kim, and the tangible “deliverables” are difficult to forecast. The key question is, “How much precision are both leaders prepared to apply to the aspirations,” as one North Korea analyst put it.
Pompeo, addressing journalists on Monday morning, first sought to reject a story in The New York Times suggesting the U.S. negotiating team “lacks the technical expertise” to conduct the negotiations. He said the U.S. team had “dozens” of experts.
He reiterated that the “complete an verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome the United States will accept.”
He added that President Trump, “recognizes Chairman Kim’s desire for security,” and his interest in economic development. Pompeo said Trump was willing to help North Korea achieve both objectives, if it “makes the right choices.”
“Tomorrow we will get our clearest indication to date whether Kim Jong Un truly shares,” the U.S. vision for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, Pompeo said.
A State Department official told CBS News that U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim and his team started talks with their North Korean counterparts on Monday at about 10 a.m. local time. They took a brief break, during which Ambassador Kim spoke with Pompeo, but as of 5 p.m. local time the discussion was still going on, likely causing Pompeo’s Monday news conference to be delayed.
As CBS News reporter Kylie Atwood notes, it appears to have been a long day of negotiations ahead of the historic leaders’ summit. The State Department tweeted a photo of the diplomats around a conference table and said it had been a “substantive” day of meetings — mirroring Pompeo’s early description of the meetings as “substantive and detailed.”
The U.S. diplomatic team, led by Ambassador Kim, left talks in the Demilitarized Zone with its North Korean counterparts last week without a pre-baked statement or agreed-upon path forward beyond the summit, according to administration officials.
Traditionally, in meetings between world leaders, officials from both sides reach an agreement before the leaders sit down together. This time the outcome will largely depend on the meeting itself and the chemistry between the two leaders, one administration official said.
The U.S would like to walk away with a signed agreement detailing a path forward, but diplomats and administration officials don’t know whether that will happen.
Kim seeks relief from crippling economic sanctions imposed by the international community, a non-aggression pact that would guarantee his regime’s security, normalization of relations and the eventual removal of the roughly 30,000 U.S. troops from South Korea. These are long-term aspirations that will not be resolved in one meeting. The U.S. has said a formal end to the Korean War needs to be negotiated between the North and South, but this topic is sure to come up.
Analysts argue that North Korea has already notched a win by holding a summit at all — it legitimizes Kim on the world stage. Kim craves modernization and believes that can be accomplished, in part, by foreign investment and trade currently blocked by sanctions.
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