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by Sharon Rondeau

North Korea is a reclusive, militaristic regime which has oppressed its people in many ways.  Is it ready for change?

(Jul. 3, 2018) — On Monday, the State Department announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be leaving Thursday on a trip where he will first meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, then proceed to Japan, Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, and Belgium.

On June 12, Jong-Un and President Donald Trump met in Singapore, where they signed an agreement for the eventual complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  North Korea has long sought and developed nuclear weapons culminating in an international scare last summer after it fired two missiles over Japan.

Prior to the summit, North Korea released three U.S. citizens held hostage for more than a year without conditions.  A provision of the agreement was for Jong-Un to arrange for the return of U.S. soldiers’ remains from the Korean War.

It is unclear if that has occurred.  On Friday Newsweek reported that Pompeo contradicted Trump’s claim, made at a Minnesota rally on June 20, that the remains of 200 soldiers had been returned, when in fact, Pompeo declined to confirm it.

On June 21, TIME reported, citing Reuters, “There was no official confirmation of the return from military sources, but anonymous U.S. officials said the previous day that North Korea was returning a ‘sizable number’ of remains, which would be transported to Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base.”

Following the summit, Trump agreed to halt scheduled war exercises between the U.S. and South Korea but maintain the strict economic sanctions imposed on the hermit nation by the U.S. and 14 other member nations of the United Nations Security Council.

Last Wednesday, Fox News, citing the website 38north.org, reported that “construction of new buildings and the completion of a plutonium production reactor as well as other support facilities at the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility” appear in satellite imagery of North Korea from June 21.

NBC News reported Friday that the North Korean regime “increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months,” citing as sources unnamed “U.S. officials” and an unpublished collective U.S. “intelligence assessment.” The article also cited 38north.

According to a State Department statement made to Reuters, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, along with a number of other U.S. officials, met in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) with North Korean officials Sunday.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg headlined an article on the subject with, “Pompeo to travel to North Korea seeking answers about its nuclear plans” which cast doubt on North Korea’s intent to follow through on its promises.

A Monday article from The Wall Street Journal reported that Pompeo’s meeting with Jong-Un would encompass “the first high-level talks on eliminating Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and programs since the Singapore summit in June, U.S. officials said.”  The article went on to say that North Korea is suspected of failing to live up to its promise to denuclearize, particularly as the U.S. would like to see the process go forward.

Two political science professors writing at The Washington Post on Sunday called the proposed denuclearization “problematic” and warned that “Kim could easily backtrack,” a possibility Trump acknowledged in an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.

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