U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo has offered economic help to impoverished North Korea if it gives up its nuclear weapons, as the two countries prepare for an historic summit between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korean state-run media on Thursday also reported in detail North Korean leader Kim's meeting with Pompeo the previous day in a highly conciliatory tone toward the United States, which it has often portrayed as a hostile enemy in state propaganda.
Reporters from China, Russia, the United States, Britain and South Korea would be allowed to "conduct on-the-spot coverage in order to show in a transparent manner the dismantlement of the northern nuclear test ground", the foreign ministry statement said.
Kim Jong Un will, justifiably, be hesitant to enter into any new agreement with the United States - especially one that is more onerous than the Iran nuclear agreement, and also one that the United States won't necessarily honour irrespective of compliance by North Korea.
South Korea said Friday it will look closer into the circumstances surrounding the arrival of a dozen North Korean restaurant workers in 2016, after a television report suggested some of the women might have been brought to the South against their will.
When asked if he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, Trump laughed and replied, "Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it".
"I think this will be a very big success", Trump said as three freed detainees from North Korea arrived back on USA soil yesterday.
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The alleged defection was particularly notable because the manager and waitresses in question were all reportedly members of North Korea's elite.
He said of the North Korean leader, "I really think he wants to do something", adding, "I really think a lot of progress has been made". The fate of the three had been among a number of delicate issues in the run-up to the summit aimed at defusing a crisis over North Korea's development of nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States.
"There's a danger here of the peace track moving more quickly than the denuclearization track", warned Abraham Denmark, an Asia expert and former senior US defense official.
For Pompeo, his visit to retrieve the trio was his second surprise trip to North Korea in recent weeks, having traveled there to visit the country's leader in early April while he was Central Intelligence Agency director - and before his confirmation as secretary of state. Trump noted, "The true honor [of the situation] is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons".
The release of the Americans is seen as a goodwill gesture by North Korea ahead of those talks.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha stressed that sanctions against Pyongyang would not be lifted until it had taken concrete steps to denuclearize.
Since an ad hoc 1953 armistice put an end to active hostilities between the North and the South, South Korea has emerged from devastation to become a leading world economy.
With the final details in place, the meeting will become the first ever meeting between a sitting USA president and North Korean leader.
In the case of the NPT, North Korea would have to be recognised and included in the NPT as the world's ninth nuclear-armed state prior to abiding by Article IV of the treaty. "South Korean diplomacy has turned fire and fury into summits and stability", Oba told VOA, referring to Trump's previously tough talks against Pyongyang.