U.S. President Donald Trump said on May 10 that he had high hopes of "doing something very meaningful" to curtail North Korea's nuclear ambitions at a summit in Singapore next month, after Pyongyang smoothed the way for talks by freeing three American prisoners.
Pompeo's trip, his second to North Korea this year, had not been publicly disclosed when he flew out of Washington late Monday aboard an Air Force jetliner.
Some observers are concerned that South Korea's desire to build peaceful ties with the North may distance it over time from the USA policy of seeking nuclear disarmament at any cost.
Rumors had swirled for days around the possibility North Korea might release the three Americans ahead of the summit, especially once Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang was revealed.
Pompeo, who has just returned from Pyongyang, said he had "good" talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
And given the fact that Kim Jong-un is not known to be a mobile leader (he has used a train, vehicle and plane for his visits to China and South Korea recently), travelling to Singapore is comparatively less hectic for the isolationist leader.
Kim Hak-song, an evangelical Christian, had gone to North Korea to teach at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, founded by American Christians and now teachers of, among others, the North Korean elite.
"Our policy is to ensure the complete, irreversible and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula".
Pompeo added that in his meetings with North Korean officials Wednesday, including Kim, they began to work on how to achieve that.
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Amid tranquil scenes of the two leaders chatting beside deep blue ocean waters and strolling through lush gardens, state media quoted Xi as telling Kim that China "supports North Korea to stick to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and supports North Korea and the U.S.in solving the peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation".
Among the biggest concerns is a question of sequence: The U.S.so far has insisted that North Korea completely abandon its nuclear program before the Trump administration eases its "maximum pressure campaign" of sanctions and diplomatic isolation.
South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha praised the upcoming meeting between Trump and Kim as an "historic" opportunity, but added a few notes of skepticism as well.
Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, reportedly welcomed the former Central Intelligence Agency director graciously, reminding him of the country's nuclear capabilities but asserting that Pyongyang had "high expectations the US will play a very big role in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula", according to a number of media outlets at the scene, including The New York Times. For about 70 years since the Korean War, the USA and North Korea have been hostile to one another. She warned that, "The North Koreans have still said nothing to indicate that they are willing to give up their nuclear weapons".
The ministry said the North will continue to "promote close contacts and dialogue with the neighboring countries and the global society so as to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and over the globe". Pompeo was said to have expressed thanks to Kim for his "cordial hospitality" and "showed his resolution and will to strive for the successful DPRK-U.S. summit as the U.S. secretary of state". Trump is also likely to try and convince the reclusive leader to shut down the nation's nuclear programme.
"They were good conversations".
He did not mention other adversaries by name, but Pompeo and others have often noted that the USA played a major role in rebuilding Japan and the European axis powers in the wake of the Second World War.
Daily life in the two countries couldn't be more different. A key part of North Korean propaganda is that the USA invaded the country at the start of the Korean War in 1950 - one reason the country needs nuclear weapons, to fend off that American aggression.
But in September 2008, the North declared that it would resume reprocessing plutonium, complaining that Washington wasn't fulfilling its promise to remove the country from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. "For decades, we have been adversaries. All I'll say is that the meeting has been agreed to, but obviously it could be halted for any number of reasons", Shah said with a note of caution to the North Koreans.