(Updates with Pompeo's arrival)
* US Secretary of State Pompeo on third trip to Pyongyang
* List of initial nuclear sites high on agenda
* Secure remains of 200 U.S. soldiers from Korean War
* Officials see a softening in the US approach to
By Hyonhee Shin and John Walcott
SEOUL/WASHINGTON, July 6 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo arrived in North Korea on Friday, hoping to "fill
in" details on the North's plans to dismantle its nuclear
programme and also to secure the remains of U.S. troops missing
from the Korean War.
Pompeo landed in Pyongyang and met Kim Yong Chol, a senior
North Korean official who played a central role with Pompeo in
arranging last month's summit between President Donald Trump and
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, according to a
pool report by reporters travelling with him.
Pompeo will spend a day and a half in North Korea, until
Saturday, his first overnight stay there.
At the Singapore summit, Kim made a broad commitment to
"work toward denuclearisation", but fell short of details on how
or when he would dismantle North Korea's nuclear programmes.
"The President told me he believes that Chairman Kim sees a
different, brighter future for the people of North Korea. We
both hope that's true," Pompeo said on Twitter after a phone
call with Trump in the air.
"Next stop: Pyongyang. I look forward to continuing my
meetings with North Korean leaders. There's much hard work ahead
but peace is worth the effort."
Pompeo said he was seeking to "fill in" some details on
North Korea's commitments and maintain the momentum toward
implementation of the agreement from the summit, according to
the pool report.
Pompeo would try to agree on at least an initial list of
nuclear sites and an inventory that could be checked against the
available intelligence, U.S. intelligence officials told
Also high on the agenda is the issue of remains, in North
Korea, of U.S. soldiers missing from the 1950-53 war. Trump said
after the Singapore summit that Kim had agreed to send remains
back to the United States.
Both issues are considered essential tests of whether Kim is
serious about negotiations. North Korean officials have yet to
demonstrate that in working-level talks, the intelligence
"If they're serious, then we can get down to the business of
defining the terms of final denuclearisation," said one
But the U.S. ability to verify the accuracy of any North
Korean list is limited due to the lack of a "high confidence"
accounting of the North's nuclear arsenal, such as the number of
warheads and uranium enrichment facilities, especially if they
are not operational, they said.
While in the past, the Pentagon has said North Korean
officials have indicated they had the remains of as many as 200
U.S. troops, a U.S. military official familiar with the
procedures for handling remains said it was not clear what North
Korea might hand over.
"Until we do the necessary DNA testing to verify whose
remains they are, and things like whether they've put remains of
the same soldier into more than one box or tried to fool us with
pieces of animal bones, we won't know for sure what they've
given us back," the official said.
However, some officials in the State and Defence Departments
and in U.S. intelligence agencies are worried that by
overstating the results of the Singapore summit, Trump has put
himself at a disadvantage if negotiations do begin.
Ahead of the Singapore summit, Pompeo said Trump would
reject anything short of "complete, verifiable and irreversible
But following talks on Sunday between U.S. envoy Sung Kim
and North Korean counterparts, this "CVID" language appears to
have disappeared from the State Department lexicon.
It says pressure will remain until North Korea
denuclearises, but in statements this week, it redefined the
U.S. goal as "the final, fully verified denuclearisation" of
Some U.S. officials and experts have said the change in
language amounted to a softening in the U.S. approach.
The State Department denied the view, saying its policy
After his departure from Washington on Thursday, Pompeo
tweeted: "Looking forward to continuing our work toward the
final, fully verified denuclearization of #DPRK, as agreed to by
Chairman Kim. Good to have press along for the trip."
"The president has made it hard to walk away from the talks
even in the North is just stalling and prevaricating again,"
said another U.S. official familiar with the talks, pointing to
Trump's tweets that North Korea no longer poses nuclear threats.
"Kim may be betting – maybe gambling – that just as he
agreed to meet after threatening fire and fury, the president
may back down again and let Pyongyang set the agenda and the
timetable," the official said.
Pompeo's talk will be closely watched in the region. He is
due to meet officials from allies South Korea and Japan in Tokyo
A spokesman for South Korea's presidential office would only
say South Korea and the United States were working to formulate
"constructive measures" on North Korea's denuclearisation.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL and John Walcott in
Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in WASHINGTON
Editing by Darren Schuettler, Robert Birsel)
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