Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Pyongyang this weekend to prepare the ground for a second summit with President Trump and Kim Jong Un.  However, North Korea appears to have upped its demands, insisting that the United States should show that it is serious about dialogue by easing sanctions before North Korea takes steps to denuclearize.

Seoul had initially thought that a Trump-Kim summit might happen after the U.S. midterm elections on November 6, but the fact that Pompeo is visiting Pyongyang sooner than expected sends a positive signal “that it might take place earlier.”

Following a meeting between North and South Korea last month, Kim said he was prepared to permanently dismantle his country’s main nuclear site, but only if the United States took “corresponding steps” to build trust. At that time, it appeared that meant a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War signaling that hostilities between the two countries were over.  However, over the last few days, Pyongyang has signaled that it may want more than that to move forward.

“The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe dream of those who are ignorant about us,” said North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, at the recent U.N general assembly.  “Continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust.  Without any trust in the U.S., there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first,”Yong said.

The United States argues that the sanctions should remain in place until North Korea has fully and verifiably denuclearized.  To build trust, North Korea appears to want “a transformation of the relationship with the United States and the first step of that would have to be comprehensive sanctions relief, said Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Experts say Pyongyang is not ready to offer a comprehensive list of its nuclear facilities, believing this would either be disbelieved or give the United States a list of future military targets.  Others say Pyongyang may be prepared to reduce, but not eliminate, its nuclear stockpile and missile capability in return for economic benefits and security guarantees from Washington.

Meanwhile, South Korea has been arguing for end-of-war declaration and predicts that such a declaration could come after Trump and Kim meet again.