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Pompeo in N. Korea with detainees on agenda

AFP-JijiPYONGYANG (AFP-Jiji) — The United States’ top diplomat Mike Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday, landing at the center of a whirlwind of diplomacy ahead of a planned U.S.-North Korea summit.

Pompeo was dispatched on an unannounced visit — his second in weeks, but first as secretary of state — to advance preparations for Donald Trump’s unprecedented meeting with Kim Jong Un over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

He told reporters that he hoped to agree on a date and venue for the summit — even though Trump said they had already been chosen.

But optimism over the process was dealt a blow by Trump’s pullout from a nuclear deal with Iran Tuesday.

Pompeo’s visit came with rumors flying over three U.S. citizens being held in the North, fueled by South Korea where the president’s office said they expected the men to be freed.

The trio are a significant domestic political issue in the United States and Trump hinted last week of imminent news after sources said they had been relocated.

In previous cases, detainees have been set free into the care of high-profile U.S. visitors, but there was no immediate indication they would be released after Pompeo held talks with Kim Yong Chul, director of the North’s United Front department, one of the organizations handling relations with the South.

The United States hoped “we can work together to resolve this conflict, take away threats to the world and make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve,” Pompeo told him, but added: “There are many challenges along the way.”

The rapid detente on the Korean Peninsula triggered by the Winter Olympics is a marked contrast from last year, when Kim and Trump traded personal insults and threats of war over the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“We think relationships are building with North Korea,” Trump said in televised comments from the White House. “We will see how it all works out. Maybe it won’t. But it can be a great thing for North Korea, South Korea and the entire world.”

But the U.S. president spoke as he yanked the United States. out of a nuclear deal with Iran, complicating the prospects of persuading Pyongyang to surrender its atomic arsenal.

Trump poured scorn on the “disastrous” 2015 accord, reached after a decade and a half of careful diplomacy by Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and past U.S. administrations, describing it as an “embarrassment” to the United States.Speech

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