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Japan, China And South Korea To Meet For Talks In Tokyo


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in North Korea to meet its leader, Kim Jong Un, who just yesterday met with China's president, Xi Jinping. And on Wednesday, Japan plays host to the leaders of China and South Korea. In other words - whole lot of diplomacy happening in Northeast Asia. And here to help us unpack it all is The Washington Post's Anna Fifield. She is in Tokyo. She joins us via Skype. Hey, Anna.

ANNA FIFIELD: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: I want to start with this mystery Mike Pompeo trip, which we just learned about today. What do we know about why he's on this trip, what he's doing there?

FIFIELD: Well, we know very little about it. Secretary of State Pompeo has said that he doesn't know who he's going to meet when he gets to Pyongyang. He previously on his undisclosed trip met several times with the leader Kim Jong Un.

KELLY: This was his last mystery trip to North Korea a few weeks back, yeah.

FIFIELD: That's right. And he met with Kim Jong Un then. We don't know whether he'll be meeting with him this time. But the expectations are very high that when he comes out of North Korea, he will bring back the three American men who have been detained in North Korea, one for about 2 1/2 years. So that would be seen as a gesture of goodwill from North Korea ahead of the planned summit between Kim Jong Un and President Trump, something that's very easy for North Korea to do to show that it's sincere as it embarks on this process.

KELLY: And speaking of that planned summit and the nuclear diplomacy that presumably also is on Mike Pompeo's agenda as he travels to North Korea, President Trump said today that the date and location of his summit with Kim Jong Un are now set. But they haven't told us. The rest of us are still in suspense, right?

FIFIELD: That's right. There's a lot of rumors going on - around in this part of the world that Singapore might be the destination where this is held. But certainly we've heard nothing from the White House confirming the date or the location of this planned summit. That's giving rise to speculation out here that there might be some kind of snag in the process, that there are some details perhaps to do with denuclearization where the two sides can't see eye to eye in the preparation. So perhaps Mike Pompeo is going to Pyongyang to help smooth out part of that.

One line from Secretary Pompeo that has raised eyebrows out here recently is that he is not just talking about complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, which has long been the American insistence with North Korea. He's talking about making it permanent. It's called PVID instead of CVID. And this is a bar that many people say that Kim Jong Un will just not be able to tolerate. So we can expect him to be hashing out the details, hopefully bringing these three Americans out with him at the time and injecting some new momentum into this process at a time - you know, we just saw Kim Jong Un make another surprise visit to China.

KELLY: To China - well, I wanted to ask you about this other diplomacy underway. This is the second time Kim Jong Un has paid a visit to China in just over a month. In the few seconds we have left, what was the substance of those talks?

FIFIELD: Well, we don't exactly know about that either. These two countries are not exactly forthcoming. But in the statement, Kim - President Xi Jinping of China said that North Korea had agreed to discuss the nuclearization in a phased and synchronous way, suggesting that North Korea will insist on the U.S. also taking steps to reduce tensions in the Peninsula. And notably, they also talked about the North Korean economy. So Kim Jong Un I think wants some Chinese help to get his economy going and to get rid of those pesky sanctions.

KELLY: All right, thank you, Anna.

FIFIELD: Great to be here.

KELLY: That's Anna Fifield, Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: May 7, 2018 at 10:00 PM MDT
A previous Web introduction to this story incorrectly said that the meeting between Japan, China and South Korea was taking place on Tuesday. The meeting is on Wednesday.