US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday named a Ford Motor Co. executive as special envoy for North Korea and said they would both travel to the nuclear-armed country next week.
Stephen Biegun, 55, who is retiring as Ford's vice president for international governmental affairs, had been considered for the post of President Donald Trump's national security advisor before it went to John Bolton.
"Steve will direct the US policy towards North Korea and lead our efforts to achieve President Trump's goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, as agreed to by chairman Kim Jong Un," Pompeo said.
"He and I will be traveling to North Korea next week to make further diplomatic progress towards our objective," he said.
The trip will be Pompeo's fourth to North Korea, and the second since a historic summit on June 12 between Trump and Kim.
"The State Department has already done excellent work in implementing and sustaining the pressure campaign, putting together the first ever leader-level summit in Singapore and laying the groundwork to hold North Korea accountable to the promises that chairman Kim has made," Pompeo said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert later said Pompeo was not expecting to meet with Kim.
At the first-ever meeting between sitting leaders of the US and North Korea, Trump and Kim pledged in a joint statement to work toward the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
The statement, however, was short on details and a UN panel of experts has found that North Korea is pressing ahead with its nuclear and missile programs.
Pompeo has insisted that Kim verbally agreed to the complete and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea, under a timetable to be fleshed out in follow-up discussions led by the State Department on the US side.
- 'Very productive' -
Kim has followed through on some commitments made at the summit, including returning the remains of US service members killed during the Korean War.
And satellite imagery from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station on North Korea's west coast shows workers dismantling part of the site, although experts warns the move does not necessarily impact Pyongyang's nuclear program.
But overall, there is scant evidence to show Kim is serious about getting rid of his nuclear weapons.
Pompeo went to Pyongyang in early July but came back with little to show for his efforts, though he insisted the talks were "very productive."
Meanwhile North Korea has criticized Washington for its "gangster-like" and "unilateral" demands for the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of Pyongyang's atomic arsenal.
Pompeo has repeatedly called for the international community to maintain pressure on North Korea, and a UN report this month warned that Pyongyang is circumventing tough sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons program.
Trump's administration has argued that sanctions must remain fully in place until North Korea has scrapped its nuclear and missile programs and that the dismantling is verified.
Following his summit with Kim, Trump famously proclaimed North Korea is "no longer a nuclear threat" and boasted of his good relationship with the strongman.
"The consultations will continue," Nauert said. "This issue is going to take some time."