WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making a surprise visit to North Korea to continue preparations for what is expected to be a historic summit, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday.
After declaring that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, the president said that Pompeo was on an unannounced trip to North Korea where talks continue about the future of that nation's nuclear weapons program. The president is expected to participate in the talks with North Korea's President Kim Jong Un and South Korea's President Moo Jae-In in the near future.
Also expected to be a high priority for Pompeo's visit is the potential release of three Americans who have been detained in North Korea.
Trump declined to confirm if the three men, Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul and Kim Sang-duk, who also goes by Tony Kim, would be coming home, but did say it was a possibility.
"We will soon be finding out. It would be a great thing if they are. We'll soon be finding out," Trump said.
Rumors about Pompeo's surprise visit had been circulating on Capitol Hill all day among aides and senators. And suspicion increased when Pompeo cancelled a previously scheduled speech for Tuesday and was not present for Trump's announcement on Iran.
The president said Pompeo's visit is a sign that "relationships are building" with the historically rogue nation.
But he added his common refrain: "We'll see how it all works out — maybe it will, maybe it won't."
Pompeo hopes to firm up the framework for the talks as well as the location and date of the summit.
"We are not going to head down the path we headed down before. We will not relieve sanctions until such time as we have achieved our objectives. We're not going to do this in small increments, where the world is coerced into relieving economic pressures," Pompeo told pool reporters on the plane.
Pompeo also said he hopes Kim Jong Un does "the right thing" in respect to the detained Americans.
"We've been asking for the release of these detainees for 17 months," he said. "We'll talk about it again. It'd be a great gesture if they'd agree to do so."
The administration has been signaling that the men could be released soon.
Last week, Trump's newly hired lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, said on Fox News, "We've got Kim Jon Un impressed enough to release three prisoners today."
And Trump recently tweeted, "Stay tuned!" referring to the men.
Tony Kim, 59, was detained in April of 2017 at Pyongyang airport as he was preparing to leave the country after a research trip for a university. Kim Hak-song was captured in May of 2017 while also working at the Pyongyang Science and Technology University for "hostile acts against the republic." And Kim Dong-chul, was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor in April 2016 for espionage and subversion.