New U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Wednesday to push for North Korea's denuclearization "without delay," setting the tone for a planned meeting between the two countries' leaders.
Pompeo made the remark at his official swearing-in ceremony just weeks ahead of a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"Our eyes are wide open," Pompeo said after being sworn in by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the State Department. Trump was also there to deliver congratulatory remarks. "A bad deal is not an option."
He said the U.S. faces an "unprecedented opportunity to change the course of history on the Korean Peninsula," but will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations in negotiating with the North.
Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang over Easter weekend and met with Kim to prepare for the summit.
"We're in the beginning stages of the work," he said, noting that the outcome of the meeting is yet unknown.
But he added it is time to solve the nuclear problem "once and for all."
"We're committed to the permanent, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program and to do so without delay," he said.
Trump has said he will meet with Kim in the next three or four weeks. On Tuesday he said an announcement on the location and date could be expected in the next couple of days.
Trump has floated the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas as a potential site for the meeting. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim held a historic summit in the same place last week.
Moon and Kim agreed to pursue "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula and work toward a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
The Trump-Kim meeting is expected to focus on how denuclearization will be achieved, and what concessions Pyongyang will seek in return.
Skepticism still remains over Kim's intentions, with some saying he will never give up his nuclear weapons, which he regards as essential for the survival of his regime.