With new special envoy, Pompeo heading to N Korea amid 'deadlock' over talks

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Amid what North Korea calls a “deadlock” in denuclearization talks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Pyongyang next week, with the new Special Representative for North Korea, Steve Biegun, in tow.

This will be Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang, his third as the top U.S. diplomat. But it comes after North Korea said talks have been ‘derailed’ after the U.S. demanded the country reveal its secret nuclear facilities — which North Korea called “a fiction.” A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on private diplomatic conversations.

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Pompeo announced Thursday that Biegun will direct U.S. policy on North Korea, handle the day-to-day negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea, and be the point person for other countries in the region.

Biegun comes to the State Department from the Ford Motor Company, where he was Vice President of International Governmental Affairs. Prior to that, he served for two decades in several government roles, including as the national security adviser to Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, on George W. Bush’s National Security Council, and as chief of staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Pompeo said he and Biegun will be traveling to Pyongyang “to make further diplomatic progress toward our objective” of North Korea’s complete denuclearization, and he praised the State Department’s “excellent work” on the global pressure campaign, preparing for President Trump and Kim Jong Un’s Singapore summit, and “laying the groundwork to hold North Korea accountable to the promises that Chairman Kim has made.”

“Using diplomacy to resolve the North Korean security threat once and for all remains one of President Trump’s greatest priorities,” Pompeo added, calling Biegun “eminently qualified” and “clear-eyed in the challenge before us.”

But there has been no public progress on the U.S. goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The U.N. nuclear watchdog reported this week there’s been a “continuation and further development” of the country’s nuclear program, which it called a “cause for grave concern.”

What had been a success for the U.S. — North Korea taking steps to dismantle a rocket engine test site — also appears to have been halted. New satellite images showed no further movement in the destruction of the key testing facilities, according to 38 North, which conducts analysis on North Korea.

Still, over two months after the Singapore summit, President Trump continues to claim success. At a campaign rally in West Virginia Tuesday, he said the US was “doing well with North Korea,” citing a lack of missile and nuclear tests and his “really good chemistry” with Kim.

It’s now up to his administration to push ahead with those diplomatic efforts and make them a success, with Biegun telling reporters, “The president has created an opening, and it’s one we must take by seizing every possible opportunity to realize a vision for a peaceful future for the people of North Korea.”

Unlike on his first two trips, Pompeo did not get an opportunity to sit down with Kim Jong Un on his most recent trip in July. But National Security Adviser John Bolton told ABC News on Sunday that he expects Pompeo will meet with the North Korean leader on his next visit.