U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday he had made "real progress" on his recent trip to North Korea and can now see a path toward the U.S. goal of eliminating the Asian nation's nuclear weapons.
"I returned late last night from North Korea from a trip where we made real progress. While there's still a long way to go and much work to do, we can now see a path where we will achieve (our) ultimate goal, which is the full and final verified denuclearization of North Korea," he told reporters during a visit to the White House.
Earlier in the day U.S. President Donald Trump said plans were being made for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and he thinks "incredible" progress has been made in U.S. talks with the long-isolated country.
"Well it is happening and we're setting that up right now," Trump told reporters at the White House after announcing the resignation of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had very good talks with Kim over the weekend and that three or four locations were being considered for the two leaders' next summit. "Timing won't be too far away," he said.
Trump and Kim held a historic first summit in Singapore on June 12 at which Kim pledged to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. However, his actions have fallen short of Washington's demands for a complete inventory of its weapons and facilities and irreversible steps to give up its arsenal.
Still, Trump was upbeat on progress made so far.
"You got no rockets flying, you have no missiles flying, you have no nuclear testing," Trump said in the Oval Office. "We've made incredible progress - beyond incredible.
"But I have agreed to meet," he said. "We have a very good relationship with Chairman Kim. I like him, he likes me, the relationship is good."
Pompeo told reporters Monday that Kim had said he was ready to allow international inspectors into North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear testing site and the Sohae missile engine test facility as soon as the United States and North Korea agreed on logistics.
However, experts questioned what Pompeo had achieved on Sunday on his fourth visit to Pyongyang this year. They said the North Korean leader appeared simply to be repackaging and dragging out past pledges.
Trump noted that the United States has not lifted the "very big sanctions" it has imposed on Pyongyang.
"I'd love to remove them, but we have to get something for doing it," Trump said.
North Korea is very interested in reaching some sort of agreement on denuclearization so that it can grow economically with the benefit of the foreign investment closed to it now, Trump said.
The U.N. World Food Program said on Tuesday that the supply of food remains precarious in North Korea, where one in five children is stunted by malnutrition. More than 10 million North Koreans, nearly 40 percent of the population, are undernourished and need humanitarian aid, it said.
"I will tell you they're calling, wanting to go there and wanting to invest," Trump said. "At some point, when Chairman Kim makes that decision, I think he's going to unleash something that's going to be spectacular, really spectacular.
"And I think he knows it and I think that's one of the reasons that we're having very successful conversations."