U.S. Wants to 'Work Together' With North Korea After Meeting Kim Jong Un

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told North Korea's top diplomat that he wanted to end decades of conflict with the Hermit Kingdom and collaborate to achieve peace.

Pompeo arrived Tuesday in Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong Un, who has defied international sanctions by developing a nuclear weapons program intended to deter any outside invasion. Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, reportedly welcomed the former CIA director graciously, reminding him of the country's nuclear capabilities but asserting that Pyongyang had "high expectations the U.S. will play a very big role in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula," according to a number of media outlets at the scene, including The New York Times.

The statement, which Kim Yong Chol accompanied with a toast, appeared to reverse his country's traditional stance of a strictly inter-Korean peace and reunification effort. Pompeo then responded with his own toast.

"For decades, we have been adversaries," Pompeo said. "Now, we are hopeful that we can work together to resolve this conflict, take away threats to the world and make your country have all the opportunities your people so richly deserve."

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang on May 9. During a rare thaw in diplomatic relations between Washington and his country, Kim has endorsed denuclearization, but the conditions remain unclear. KCNA/Reuters

North Korea embodied the earliest—and arguably the only ongoing—front in the Cold War. After Allied powers defeated Japan, two post–World War II satellite states emerged on the Korean Peninsula: North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union and China, and South Korea, backed by the U.S. and its allies in the United Nations. A three-year war broke out in 1950, leaving many dead on both sides of what has since become the world's most heavily militarized border.

Kim Jong Un is the third installment of his family's absolute rulers in North Korea. Despite strong sanctions and accusations of human rights abuses, he has achieved historic success in launching the country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducting its debut hydrogen bomb test last year. Those ambitious efforts were met with outrage by President Donald Trump, who threatened military action.

Related: What does North Korea's Kim Jong Un want from Trump? Three steps U.S. can take to solve nuclear crisis

As 2018 arrived, however, Kim sought to capitalize on his image as a reformer in order to pursue talks with pro-West South Korea. While skeptics assert that Kim was unlikely to give up his weapons of mass destruction, the millennial leader has surprised some observers by crossing the border to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, suspending his nuclear program and inviting Trump himself for face-to-face talks.

While Pompeo's latest sit-down with Kim was his second, the upcoming leaders' summit, officially scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, will be the first time a sitting U.S. president has ever met a North Korean leader.

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A timeline shows the history of the two Koreas since 1900. The third inter-Korean summit took place on April 27, and a historic meeting between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea is planned for June 12. 2018 INTER-KOREAN SUMMIT PREPARATION COMMITTEE/REUTERS

Kim has already offered what was widely seen as a goodwill gesture ahead of the meeting. Following Pompeo's visit, Trump announced Wednesday that North Korea had agreed to release three U.S. citizens being detained there. The president welcomed the trio back as they arrived home at a ceremony early Thursday in Washington.

Nevertheless, North Korea has cautioned against Trump's eagerness to credit the ongoing peace efforts to his own "maximum pressure" campaign of sanctions and military posturing. Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee, accused the U.S. in a commentary Wednesday of holding on to a "Cold War way of thinking" and being "rude," according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

"The U.S. should bear in mind that it will conform to the demand of the world community and to its own interests to show etiquette and sincerity to its dialogue partner," it added.

U.S. Wants to 'Work Together' With North Korea After Meeting Kim Jong Un | World