Chill in the air as Pompeo meets Chinese counterparts in Beijing

Chill in the air as Pompeo meets Chinese counterparts in Beijing

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited Pope Francis to visit Pyongyang, the South Korean presidential office said on Tuesday.

The Pope has in the past supported dialogue between the two Koreas and the historic summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, which took place in Singapore on June 12.

Kim also brought up the interactions between the North Korean leader and Roman Catholic Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong at Mt. Paektu last month, who was invited to join the South Korean delegation alongside President Moon. "But we do think right that this is a place where ultimately some of these big hard issues have to be resolved by the nation's most senior leaders and hope to have those presented in a way that the two leaders can resolve them when they get together".

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo "directly addressed ‎areas where the United States and China do not agree, including on the South China Sea and human rights".

There are doubts whether Kim is willing to fully relinquish his country's nuclear weapons, which he may see as a stronger guarantee of survival than whatever security assurances the United States could provide.

This version of the story corrects 4th paragraph to make clear that Washington has been seeking inspection of Yongbyon. USA officials have thus far said the penalties will remain in place until the North's denuclearization is fully verified.

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North Korea and the Vatican have no formal diplomatic relations.

As part of his delegation to Pyongyang, Pompeo brought along Stephen Biegun, his special representative to North Korea and the diplomat expected to take on more of the day-to-day negotiating with Kim's regime.

"It's a very nice day that promises a good future for both countries", Kim told Pompeo through an interpreter as they sat down for the meal. Pompeo was in Tokyo for talks with Japanese officials ahead of his trip to North Korea.

Pompeo told South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday his latest trip to Pyongyang was "another step forward" to denuclearisation, but there were "many steps along the way".

He came away from it saying the two sides had made progress, only for North Korea to denounce him for making "gangster-like" demands and raising "cancerous" issues.

Francis visited South Korea in August 2014.

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Things didn't go much better a day later in Beijing, where Pompeo had the bad fortune of being the first senior US official to visit the country since a blistering speech on China last week from Pence.

Weakening support for USA -led sanctions - from countries including Russian Federation and China, but also South Korea - has also led to a growing sense that Pompeo is spending more and more of his time just trying to keep existing restrictions in place.

North Korea entered talks with the US and South Korea earlier this year, saying it's willing to negotiate away its advancing nuclear arsenal.

The unprecedented summit served as a platform for the two leaders to discuss denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

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

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