In a joint statement with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at their Pyongyang summit last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed a willingness to "permanently dismantle" the Yongbyon nuclear complex if the United States takes corresponding action.
A senior Blue House official, requesting anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, told reporters Wednesday that Seoul had initially thought that a Trump-Kim summit might happen after the November 6 US midterm elections, but the fact that Pompeo is visiting Pyongyang sooner than expected "sends a positive signal" that it might take place earlier. The State Department talking head, Heather Nauert announced that Pompeo and Kim will meet in Pyongyang on October 7.
"This will mark the beginning of negotiations to transform" relations between the USA and North Korea "through the process of rapid denuclearization of North Korea, to be completed by January 2021, as committed by Chairman Kim, and to construct a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula", the statement said.
Graham was responding to comments the president made last week during a West Virginia rally about how his relationship with the North Korean leader has evolved since the pair met in Singapore this past June.
North Korea says it first wants relief from punishing global sanctions.
It will be the fourth trip by Pompeo to the longtime United States pariah amid American hopes of reaching an agreement to end North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Pompeo had planned to travel to North Korea in August but Trump cancelled the trip at the last moment and publicly acknowledged for the first time that his efforts to get Pyongyang to denuclearize had stalled.
"What North Korea has indicated is they will permanently dismantle their nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, which is a very big part of their nuclear program", Seoul's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said in an interview with The Washington Post. That left Seoul lobbying hard for a second summit between Trump and Kim to keep alive a positive atmosphere for nuclear diplomacy. Mr Moon said this would include a declaration of an official end to the war.
On the sidelines, Minister Cho, who is in charge of inter-Korean affairs, is expected to meet with his North Korean counterpart, Ri Son-gwon, to discuss follow-up measures to the agreement their leaders reached in their September summit in Pyongyang. "But the problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust", he said.
"Without any trust in the USA, there will be no confidence in our national security, and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first".
Even some skeptics, though, acknowledge that the current dialogue has brought rewards in terms of an end to nuclear and missile testing and reduced tensions.
"We are not easing the pressure in that regard at all", she said, while responding when asked if Washington was considering any kind of peace declaration: "We are not".