Kim ‘ready to allow nuclear inspectors’

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un

International inspectors will be allowed into North Korea’s dismantled nuclear testing site, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said on Monday, after a meeting with Kim Jong-un in which he said significant progress had been made towards denuclearisation.

Pompeo met the North Korean leader in Pyongyang on Sunday to rekindle stalled denuclearisation talks following a landmark summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

“Chairman Kim said he’s ready to allow them to come in” and see the dismantled Punggye-ri nuclear test site, Pompeo said.

North Korea took apart the Punggye-ri facility in the country’s northeast in May but has yet to allow international observers into the site to verify its claims.

The facility, buried inside a mountain near the border with China, was the staging ground for all six of the North’s nuclear tests.

The inspectors would be allowed in as soon as the two sides agree on logistics, Pompeo said in Seoul before leaving for Beijing on a whirlwind diplomatic trip.

Pompeo, however, did not comment on possible corresponding measures to be taken by Washington.

Denuclearisation of North Korea was a long process, Pompeo said. “We made significant progress,” he said.

The top US diplomat also said the two countries were pretty close to setting a date and location for the second summit between Kim and Trump.

The visit was Pompeo’s fourth to North Korea.

Trump met Kim in Singapore in June for the first-ever summit between the two countries, resulting in what critics say was only a vague commitment by the North Korean leader towards denuclearisation.

The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper carried the Pompeo meeting on its front page, with eight photos of the two men shaking hands and smiling broadly.

Pompeo and Kim had “a good meeting”, Trump tweeted, adding: “I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim again, in the near future.”

Later on Monday, Pompeo faced a testy exchange with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing, days after a blistering US denunciation of the Asian power’s global and domestic policies.

Meeting at the Diaoyutai Guest House, foreign minister Wang Yi told Pompeo that the US has stepped up rhetoric over trade tensions after a raft of tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars in US and Chinese goods.

He also accused the US of making a series of moves on Taiwan and other issues that hurt Chinese sovereignty.

“These actions have affected the mutual trust between both sides, and has cast a shadow over the prospect of China-US relations, which completely go against the interest of our two peoples,” Wang said.