By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. and North Korea began highly anticipated talks Friday aimed at resuming stalled efforts to end the North’s nuclear weapons program by arranging a second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korea’s former spy chief, Kim Yong Chol, did not respond to reporters’ questions before their meeting at a Washington hotel.
Pompeo, Kim and Steve Biegun, the special U.S. envoy for North Korea negotiations, stood silently as photographers took photos. Pompeo and Kim had plans to go to the White House later for a possible meeting with Trump.
Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit early this year and has exchanged multiple letters with Kim Jong Un despite little tangible progress on a vague denuclearization agreement reached at their historic first meeting in Singapore last June.
Since then, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology.
The talks have stalled over North Korea’s refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them.
The North has demanded that the U.S. end harsh economic penalties and provide security guarantees before the North takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that the Trump-Kim dialogue was “promising” but that “we still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region.”
A planned meeting between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol in New York last November was called off abruptly. U.S. officials said at the time that North Korea had canceled the session.
Kim Jong Un expressed frustration in an annual New Year’s address over the lack of progress in negotiations. But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit “to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.