U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference following a meeting with North Korea's envoy Kim Yong Chol in NY, U.S., May 31, 2018.
In a sign the two sides are stepping up diplomacy, the US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, led a delegation to the tense border area on Sunday in the highest-level meeting with the North since the June 12 summit.
Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post in a June 30 report that North Korea had plans to deceive the United States about the true number of nuclear warheads and the existence of undisclosed nuclear facilities-indicating that it does not intend to fully denuclearize.
At last month's summit with Trump in Singapore, Kim agreed to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula", but offered little in the way of specifics.
Bolton's remarks contradicted those of Pompeo, the point man on the talks and who had earlier said that the USA wants North Korea to take "major" nuclear disarmament steps within the next two years - before the end of Trump's first term in January 2021.
White House officials are reportedly looking to schedule a second meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in New York City this September, in an attempt to progress from the two leaders' first summit in Singapore.
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Diplomatic gains have been marred by USA intelligence and satellite images suggesting that the North is moving ahead with its nuclear weapons programs despite Kim's summit promise to work toward the "complete denuclearization" of the divided peninsula.
Recent revelations suggesting that North Korea is pressing forward with its nuclear missile program increase pressure on the Trump administration to wrest concrete concessions and denuclearization timelines from the communist state.
Over the weekend in the US, National Security Adviser John Bolton suggested Pompeo would be discussing with "the North Koreans in the near future, about, really, how to dismantle all of their W.M.D". Evidence collected since the June 12 summit in Singapore points to preparations to deceive the USA about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea's arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs, according to the report. "Then the elimination of sanctions, aid by South Korea and Japan and others can all begin to flower". Pompeo, who has taken a leading role in negotiations with the North Korean leader, has said it may take years to implement an agreement that would eliminate the nation's nuclear stockpile.
Last week, 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project affiliated with Washington's Stimson Center think tank, said satellite imagery showed the North had been upgrading its Yongbyon nuclear complex.
"None of this activity technically violates any agreement Kim may have made", said Vipin Narang, an associate professor at MIT's security studies Programme. And it is to North Korea's advantage to dismantle very quickly. Now that we have concluded the U.S. She declined to confirm or deny recent media reports of intelligence assessments saying North Korea has been expanding its weapons capabilities.
"I do not believe it would be possible to verify full dismantlement within a year, nor have I yet seen evidence of a firm DPRK decision to undertake full dismantlement".
Dismantle in a year - or ongoing program?