Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

North Korea wants Pope to visit, South to tell Vatican

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discussed denuclearisation steps to be taken by the North Kim, Pompeo agree to 2nd US-North Korea summit 'at earliest date'
Ellis Copeland | 09 October, 2018, 21:56

It comes nearly two decades after a similar invitation was extended to Pope John Paul II, although a visit never came to pass after a request for Catholic priests to be accepted in North Korea was denied. The visit was the latest indication of deteriorating ties between the USA and China, as the two sides tussle over everything from trade to Taiwan and the South China Sea.

During the summit of the two leaders last month, Kim told Moon he wanted to invite the pope to North Korea, the spokesman added.

This week, he held talks with the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, where Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency said he "explained in detail the proposals for solving the denuclearisation issue", although no details were provided. But that wasn't an advance on comments Trump made last month in NY, when he said he wanted to meet Kim "very soon".

China and the United States are at odds over trade and Beijing's militarization of islands it claims in the South China Sea.

Pompeo also visited Japan and South Korea, where he said Monday in Seoul that there had been "significant progress" toward an agreement for the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

The Vatican doesn't have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, which has a history of suppressing religion, but the two sides have had informal contacts over the years.

"North Korea is bolstering its ties with China and Russian Federation so although the U.S. is maintaining the sanctions regime, it's on thin ice", said Hong Hyun-ik, an analyst at the Sejong Institute.

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State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement that "Chairman Kim invited inspectors to visit the Punggye Ri nuclear test site to confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled".

Pompeo also met China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi, a Politburo member who heads the ruling Communist Party's foreign affairs commission, though remarks before reporters took a more conventional tone, even as both agreed relations faced many challenges.

Yi criticized Pompeo for the US government's actions towards Taiwan, claiming that Washington is interfering in Chinese affairs.

In exchange, the United States would declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War - which concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty - but North Korea would stop short of delivering an exhaustive list of its nuclear facilities, she said. Trump said on Twitter that, "Progress made on Singapore Summit Agreements!" The secretary of state began his response talking about "fundamental disagreement" on key issues between the world's two biggest economies, but signaling optimism that "candid" conversations would bring both sides together.

He came away from it saying the two sides had made progress, only for North Korea to denounce him for making "gangster-like" demands and raising "cancerous" issues.

Mr Pompeo described his fourth trip to the North Korean capital as "another step forward to denuclearisation".

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