US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit North Korea on Sunday to meet with leader Kim Jong-un and try to push denuclearisation efforts forward, the State Department said.
"While surely Pompeo and Kim won't be able to create a complete agenda for a second summit, or achieve a massive breakthrough in one meeting, their talks can explore if such a meeting is viable and what both sides might be willing to compromise on", said Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest.
Pompeo's fourth trip to the North Korean capital on Sunday, . will be all the more important, .as the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, .
The invitation to return to Pyongyang to discuss North Korean denuclearization efforts was made during a meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho amid United Nations sessions last week.
Pompeo's trip at the weekend comes as the United States hopes to move forward in negotiations with the North, which has repeatedly complained the Trump administration has not reciprocated its good will. Pompeo said he expects to a plan for a second summit between Kim and Trump, and to make progress on a "pathway for denuclearisation".
"I think it shows forward progress and momentum that the secretary is making his fourth trip in less than a year", State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.
Since then, North Korea has suspended missile testing and has taken some steps to dismantle facilities associated with its nuclear program, but it has not halted weapons development.
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Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang comes as North Korea is seen as toughening its negotiating stance.
"Obviously these conversations are going in the right direction, and we feel confident enough to hop on a plane to head there", Nauert said.
During a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September, Kim expressed his readiness to close the Yongbyon facility, which is capable of uranium enrichment, if Washington took "corresponding measures".
The meeting between Pompeo and Kim may also chart a possible second meeting between the two leaders.
Pompeo said the day of the Trump-Kim summit he was hopeful that there would be major North Korean disarmament by the end of Trump's term in January 2021. But that date was referred to in a September 19 statement in his name on the outcome of summit between the leaders of South and North Korea.
The United States has nonetheless insisted on maintaining tight UN sanctions against North Korea during the diplomatic drive, while Beijing has said it is time to start easing sanctions.
North Korea says it first wants relief from punishing worldwide sanctions.