Washington and Pyongyang get down to 'nitty gritty' in nuclear talks

Trump reportedly raised the idea in August 2017 during a meeting about sanctions the United States has imposed on oil rich Venezuela

Earlier, Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol both said they needed clarity on the parameters of an agreement to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula that Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed to in Singapore.

According to the New York Times, Pompeo has said that one goal of the talks is to determine whether the North Koreans are honest about denuclearization, while privately conceding to some colleagues that he considers the talks to be doomed.

As the day began, Pompeo left the compound to make a secure call to Trump away from potential surveillance, then returned to restart talks and they continued through a working lunch for nearly six hours.

Last month, Kim and Trump met in Singapore and signed a statement committing Pyongyang to "work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" in exchange for USA "security guarantees" and peace in the decades-old stand-off.

"We did have very serious discussions on very important matters yesterday", Kim said. "So thinking about those discussions you might have not slept well last night".

Opening the talks after the United States envoy arrived on Friday, his opposite number Kim Jong Chol joked to Pompeo that he must be getting used to the city by now. We did have a good set of conversations yesterday. "I expect that the DPRK is ready to do the same", Pompeo said, using the initials for North Korea's official name.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Pyongyang for a meeting with senior North Korean official Kim Yong-cho to try to breath new life into denuclearisation negotiations given recent reports pointing to continued activity in the country's nuclear facilities.

Pompeo responded: "There are things that I have to clarify as well".

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that the U.S. remains "very firm" in its stance that three basic goals be met: complete denuclearisation of North Korea, security assurances, and the repatriation of remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean war.

Every element of the Singapore agreement was covered in the meetings, from security assurances to reparations, Nauert said. But previous demands by the USA for "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization", have made way for the phrase "final, fully verified denuclearization", as used in a tweet by Pompeo, Friday.

Pompeo, however, said that more talks were needed on both.

Nauert said "progress was made" in the meetings Saturday morning, and Pompeo was expected to have more meetings in the afternoon.

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Pompeo warned that "the path toward complete denuclearization building a relationship between our two countries is vital for a brighter North Korea and the success that our two presidents demand of us".

But rather than the two leaders crowning years of detailed negotiation with their one-on-one meeting, the short statement marked instead the start of a diplomatic long slog, and Trump earned the scorn of Korea watchers and non-proliferation experts when he declared the crisis over.

A US State Department spokeswoman said the two sides have set up working groups to deal with "nitty gritty stuff" including validation of efforts to achieve denuclearisation.

Pompeo, who spoke with Trump, national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff John Kelly by secure phone before starting Saturday's session, replied that he "slept just fine".

Pompeo held almost three hours of talks with Kim Yong Chol on Friday and a working dinner that Nauert described as further "relationship building". She said the dinner lasted an hour and 45 minutes and at times the two were "cracking jokes" and "exchanging pleasantries".

"On this trip, I'm seeking to fill in some details on these commitments and continue the momentum toward implementation of what the two leaders promised each other and the world".

"Of course it is important", Vice Chairman Kim told the U.S. Secretary.

The issue of the remains of US soldiers missing from the Korean War is also high on the agenda.

Pompeo had said before the Singapore summit Trump would reject anything short of "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation".

The State Department has pushed back on reports that the U.S.is softening its position with North Korea, the spokesperson telling reporters Friday "nothing could be further from the truth". He is due to meet officials from allies South Korea and Japan in Tokyo on Sunday.

Pompeo's talks will be closely watched in the region.

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