Agencies, Seoul, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making a surprise visit to North Korea, with speculation growing that he will bring home three jailed Americans, said a BBC News on Wednesday.
Mr Pompeo’s visit is intended to lay the groundwork for a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump. He told reporters he was hoping to finalise plans for talks, which are likely to focus on denuclearisation.
But the release of the detainees is a central issue for the Americans.
A South Korean presidential official told news agency Yonhap that Pyongyang was expected to release the US citizens as a “goodwill gesture”.
Mr Pompeo 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,” he said. One of the detainees was jailed in 2015, the other two have been in prison for just over a year. This is Mr Pompeo’s second trip to Pyongyang since the Trump-Kim meeting was announced. He said a “good relationship” was formed at the meeting in April, which marked the highest level US contact with North Korea since 2000.
A state department official travelling with Mr Pompeo said the US would also be “listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantially changed” with the nation’s nuclear ambitions.
In April, Mr Trump stunned the international community by accepting Pyongyang’s suggestion for direct talks – it will be an unprecedented move for a sitting US president to meet a North Korean leader.
Mr Trump referred to Mr Pompeo’s latest visit while announcing that the US was withdrawing from an Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran.
“We think relationships are building with North Korea,” the president said.
Speaking of his forthcoming meeting with Mr Kim, Mr Trump said: “We have our meeting set. The location is picked. The time and date, everything is picked.”
He added: “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.”