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N Korea at crossroads

US and North Korea agree to second summit 'as soon as possible'

Kim invites inspectors to visit dismantled nuclear test site

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in this picture Pompeo posted on  Twitter.   © Kyodo

SEOUL -- The U.S. and North Korea agreed Sunday to hold a second summit between leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un "as soon as possible," according to a statement by South Korea's presidential office, with the American side saying that Kim had also invited inspectors to a key nuclear facility.

The Blue House released the statement after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Seoul with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss his meeting with Kim in Pyongyang earlier the same day.

Later, the U.S. State Department said Pompeo and Kim had "refined options for the location and date of that next summit."

On the denuclearization committed to at the leaders' first summit in Singapore, Kim told Pompeo that inspectors were invited to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site "to confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled," according to a statement from spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

Trump tweeted Sunday that he looked forward to meeting Kim again "in the near future."

On arriving in South Korea, Pompeo indicated he had made progress in talks with the North Korean leader over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"Had a good trip to #Pyongyang to meet with Chairman Kim. We continue to make progress on agreements made at Singapore Summit. Thanks for hosting me and my team," Pompeo tweeted after arriving at a U.S. military base south of the South Korean capital.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose during their meeting in Singapore in June    © Reuters

Even so, neither Washington nor Pyongyang has taken concrete steps toward denuclearization since their leaders agreed in Singapore in June to take action to remove nuclear weapons from the peninsula. The two nations also appear to be apart on the pace and order of steps to achieve this objective.

The U.S. has demanded that Pyongyang should submit a list of its nuclear weapons and facilities, while North Korea says that Washington should first declare the formal end of the Korean War as a gesture toward guaranteeing the isolated nation's security.

Seeking to act as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang, Moon traveled to meet Kim in the North Korean capital last month.

Moon said he pushed Kim to take action on denuclearization, while the North Korean leader said he'd demolish his country's engine test site for long-range missiles under surveillance of international experts. Kim also pledged to shut down its nuclear complex in Yongbyon if the U.S. takes responsive actions.

Pompeo's brief trip to the North, his fourth since March, was initially planned in late August but Trump called it off at the last minute.

Negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have yielded no visible progress in recent months, a matter which North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho attributed to the U.S.'s use of sanctions to press his government to denuclearize.

"The reason behind the recent deadlock is because the U.S. relies on coercive measures which are lethal to trust-building," Ri said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly last month.

North Korea reiterated its position on Tuesday with a statement through the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency, which accused the U.S. of "trying to subdue someone by resorting to sanctions, oft-repeating the story about escalation of sanctions pressure" on the North.

"We're doing great with North Korea," Trump said at a rally just hours after Ri addressed the U.N. He said that, after receiving a number of "beautiful" and "great" letters from his North Korean counterpart, he and Kim "fell in love."

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