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Pompeo Heads To North Korea


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on his way to North Korea, his third known trip there but his first since President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to work to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The two leaders signed a brief statement after their summit last month. Two pages long, it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Now will Pompeo be able to start filling in some of the details?

We begin our coverage with Bloomberg reporter Nick Wadhams, who is traveling with the secretary of state. I ask Nick about Pompeo's itinerary in North Korea.

NICK WADHAMS: He arrives at about noon local time on the 6th and then will be there all the rest of the day, spend the night and then head out later the next day. So all we know is that there will be a lot of meetings, but we don't have an official schedule yet on who he'll meet.

KELLY: Oh, that's interesting. He's going to stay the night in Pyongyang.

WADHAMS: That's right. This is the first high-level meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials since the Singapore summit when President Trump met Kim Jon Un.

KELLY: And I'm just curious - the diplomatic details here. Usually a secretary of state traveling would stay in the U.S. embassy of a capital city they're visiting. There obviously is no U.S. embassy in Pyongyang. Do you know where he's staying?

WADHAMS: There are basically two hotels where North Korea puts foreign visitors. You know, the interesting thing about this and what's going to be so fascinating to watch is that this really hasn't been done at this level in so many years. But so far, we have very precious few details about how this is actually all going to go down.

KELLY: Fascinating - no protocol to follow because there has been no protocol for so many years in a meeting at this level. All right, so what about the substance of these talks? What has Pompeo laid out as specific goals for this specific meeting?

WADHAMS: Well, that's another really interesting thing. They haven't actually publicly laid out what specifically he's going to be doing in Pyongyang. Read that as you may. What we expect, though, is that he's going to start to lay out some sort of timeline under which North Korea would essentially declare what weapons of mass destruction it has and then begin to start looking ahead to the future to how it would give up those weapons and how the U.S. side would verify that it was doing so. Secretary Pompeo insists that North Korea is genuine in its desire to give up its nuclear weapons despite deep skepticism from observers and analysts about that.

KELLY: Do we have any insight into what kind of timeline he's seeking?

WADHAMS: Well, we have contradicting messages from this administration. So John Bolton went on the Sunday news shows last week and said that he expected the bulk of this to be done within a year, but that contradicted Secretary Pompeo himself who said he had no timeline and then a couple of weeks before that told us that he expected the real heavy lifting of this to be done within the president's first term. So we're going into Pyongyang essentially with three timelines. One is no timeline. One is a year. And another is 2 1/2 years. So the question is, do they have a plan in mind, or are they sort of going along, feeling it out as they go?

KELLY: Nick Wadhams, foreign policy reporter for Bloomberg News, thanks very much.

WADHAMS: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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