Pompeo Brings 'Rocket Man' CD for Kim Jong

Yonhap  EPA  REX  Shutterstock

Yonhap EPA REX Shutterstock

Mike Pompeo left Washington on Thursday bound for Pyongyang.

The top USA diplomat is under pressure to show progress following the meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore where the two sides agreed to work toward the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

A delegation of South Korean basketball players, government officials and journalists arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday for friendly basketball games with North Korea in the latest round of sports diplomacy between the two countries.

Quoting unnamed sources in Washington, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper said the gifts reflected Trump's belief that Kim would follow through on commitments the leaders agreed at their summit in Singapore last month.

Pyongyang's state-controlled news agency KCNA said last month Xi and Kim discussed "strategic and tactical cooperation" between the two countries. That visit catapulted both Washington and North Korea to re-start the planning process for the Trump-Kim summit.

Trump remembered the conversation and told Pompeo to take a CD with the song for Kim.

At the Singapore summit, Kim made a broad commitment to "work toward denuclearisation", but fell short of details on how or when he would dismantle North Korea's nuclear programs.

His round-the-world diplomatic voyage will then take him on to Vietnam and then Abu Dhabi before he arrives in the Belgian capital Brussels to rejoin Trump for next week's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit.

But it remains uncertain whether Japan will heed North Korea's call as it continues to seek comprehensive resolution of the nuclear, missile and abduction issues.

"Contrary to our military's suspension of joint Korea-U.S. military exercises, North Korea is conducting military exercises on a scale similar to previous years", Kim said. "The secretary has been very clear and very blunt with the North Koreans about what he expects".

"Until we do the necessary DNA testing to verify whose remains they are, and things like whether they've put remains of the same soldier into more than one box or tried to fool us with pieces of animal bones, we won't know for sure what they've given us back", the official said.

"Goodwill gestures between the Koreas can be compared to rocking back and forth in a rocking chair - it feels good, but you aren't really moving forward", said Bong Young-shik, a North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul.

Trump softened his approach to denuclearization since the summit.

The State Department says Pompeo will try to get a better understanding during his trip.

When South Korean musicians traveled to the North earlier this year to hold two concerts in Pyongyang, Kim Jong-un made a surprise appearance at the first show on March 31 and sat beside South Korea's Culture Minister Do Jong-hwan. He plans to spend the night in Pyongyang, then will head to Japan for talks with Japanese and South Korean officials about the visit.

He downplayed concerns that improved relations will be accompanied by the easing of sanctions and pressure on North Korea, saying that the progress in inter-Korean projects will depend on whether appropriate conditions are created.

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