Pyongyang, May 9: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday arrived here in North Korea, amid growing speculation over the possible release of three US detainees, to prepare for the historic talks between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump.
Pompeo’s arrival coincided with the first trilateral summit between Japan, China and South Korea, who endorsed the agreement signed by Pyongyang and Seoul to achieve complete denuclearisation and long-term peace on the Korean Peninsula, Efe news reported.
Ahead of the surprise visit, the US Secretary of State said he hoped North Korea would “do the right thing” and release three Americans imprisoned in the country.
“We’ve been asking for the release of these detainees for 17 months,” the BBC quoted Pompeo as saying.
A South Korean presidential official told news agency Yonhap that Pyongyang was expected to release the US citizens –Kim Dong-chul, 64, Kim Sang-duk, 58, and Kim Hak-song, about 60, — as a “goodwill gesture” ahead of the summit.
A State Department official travelling with Pompeo said the US would also be “listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantially changed” with the nation’s nuclear ambitions.
Trump on Tuesday referred to Pompeo’s latest visit while announcing the US’ withdrawal from an Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran.
This is Pompeo’s second trip to Pyongyang after meeting with Kim in April.
Pompeo had said that a “good relationship” was formed at that meeting, which marked the highest level of US contact with North Korea since 2000.
At a trilateral summit in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to join forces and focus on an open dialogue with Pyongyang to make it abandon its nuclear arsenal.
In a joint press meet after the summit, Abe stressed the importance of the inter-Korean agreement for peace and stability in the region and said he shares a common stand with Beijing and Seoul that the successive UN resolutions on North Korea should be complied with.
Kim was earlier quoted as saying that he hoped “phased and synchronised” measures would be taken to realise denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.
Li said the dialogue in the peninsula was heading in a good direction and added that all parties should take advantage of this moment to resolve the conflict.
Moon welcomed the strong support from Li and Abe for the “Panmunjom Declaration” signed between Seoul and Pyongyang on April 27, and said he would do everything possible to implement the pact.
This was the first trilateral summit since 2012 and it comes amid a whirlwind of diplomatic activity to finalize preparations for the upcoming Kim-Trump meet.