North Korea wants Pope Francis to visit, South to tell Vatican

Cheryl Sanders
October 9, 2018

The exchange came as Pompeo arrived in Beijing during an Asian trip focused on North Korea.

Tensions are rising: US and Chinese destroyers had a near-miss in the South China Sea recently near Gaven Reef, part of the disputed Spratly archipelago where China has developed military outposts.

While Moon, Kim, and members of both sides made casual conversation at the symbolic mountain's peak on September 20, the Archbishop said he would convey to Pope Francis that inter-Korean relations were "improving and moving in the direction of peace", Kim said during Tuesday's briefing.

Kim got out of the Rolls-Royce and is then seen walking towards Pompeo to greet him with a handshake with the shiny new motor in the background.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Kim over the weekend, and said that a second meeting between the North Korean leader and Trump would be set up "at the earliest possible date".

President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, who is helping with negotiations, said there will be another meeting between the two leaders as soon as possible.

The polite but edgy tone underscored the plunge in US-Chinese relations as the administration of President Donald Trump confronts Beijing over its technology policies and territorial claims in the South China Sea.

After a previous visit to Pyongyang in July, Pompeo had said the two foes made progress on key issues - but within hours of his departure the North condemned "gangster-like" demands from the U.S., raising questions over how much the two sides really saw eye to eye.

Pyongyang was previously home to a vibrant Christian community, earning it the nickname "Jerusalem of the east" before the founding of North Korea. He said Chinese leader Xi Jinping was also expected to travel to North Korea but did not elaborate further.

Pompeo told journalists in Seoul that the leader had agreed to open up the Punggye-ri nuclear testing site to inspectors. "We demand that the USA side stop this kind of mistaken action".

The Vatican's priests were expelled by North Korea long ago and state-appointed laymen officiate services.

Trump "will not back down" from the challenge, Pence said.

Kim's push for greater global recognition is also aimed at softening his image and weakening the US-led "maximum pressure" campaign.

The North has accused Washington of making "unilateral and gangster-like" demands on denuclearization and has insisted that sanctions should be lifted before any progress in nuclear talks.

After that inter-Korean summit, Kim also said he was prepared to permanently dismantle his country's main nuclear site at Yongbyon, but only if the United States took "corresponding steps" to build trust.

The two countries have, however, been in a standoff over what the term denuclearisation means. He also urged world leaders to mediate in the crisis and find a diplomatic solution.

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