Pompeo to Travel to North Korea With New Special Envoy

August 23, 2018 Updated: August 23, 2018

WASHINGTON—U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit North Korea again next week to try to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapons, and will take a new U.S. special representative, Stephen Biegun, with him in an attempt to break the deadlock.

Pompeo on Aug. 23 named the Ford Motor Co. executive, a veteran Republican foreign policy hand, as the U.S. special envoy to North Korea.

“Steve will direct U.S. policy toward North Korea and lead our efforts to achieve President Trump’s goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Kim Jong Un,” Pompeo told reporters, referring to the North Korean leader.

“He and I will be traveling to North Korea next week to make further diplomatic progress toward our objective.”

It will be Pompeo’s fourth trip this year aimed at getting North Korea to scrap a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States and his second since an unprecedented June summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo had no plans to meet with Kim in Pyongyang.

“We don’t have that scheduled; we have no expectations of meeting with Chairman Kim. That is not a part of this trip,” she told a regular news briefing.

Biegun said of North Korea: “The issues are tough and will be tough to resolve.” But he added that Trump had created an opening “that we must take by seizing every possible opportunity to realize the vision for a peaceful future for the people of North Korea.”

Biegun served as vice president of international governmental affairs for Ford for 14 years. Prior to that, he was a senior staffer for former President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and he also advised members of Congress on foreign affairs.

‘Gangster-like Demands’

On his last visit to Pyongyang, in July, Pompeo left hailing progress, only for North Korea within hours to denounce his “gangster-like demands.” He did not meet with Kim on that trip, although he did on his first two visits, which took place before the summit.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump defended his efforts to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, saying he believed North Korea had taken specific steps toward denuclearization. He said he would “most likely” meet again with Kim.

Kelly Magsamen, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian affairs now at the Center for American Progress, said Biegun’s appointment would “hopefully bring focus and coherence” to U.S. North Korea diplomacy.

Joshua Pollack, a North Korea missile expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, noted that Biegun’s background was mostly in Russian issues.

But Pollack said that Pompeo could enhance Biegun’s credibility as a negotiator by personally introducing him in Pyongyang. “That would allow Pompeo to step back somewhat until more groundwork has been laid in working-level talks,” he said.

Biegun’s name was floated earlier this year among a list of contenders to replace Trump’s then national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who was ultimately succeeded by John Bolton.

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