Monday 15 July 2019

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un to meet again to discuss denuclearisation

A summit has been pencilled in for February following last year’s icebreaker in Singapore.

US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year (Kevin Lim/The Straits Times/AP)
US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year (Kevin Lim/The Straits Times/AP)

By Matthew Lee and Deb Riechmann, Associated Press

President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to broker a deal to coax the North to give up its nuclear programme, the White House has announced.

News of a second meeting with the reclusive North Korean leader came after Mr Trump met at the White House for 90 minutes with a North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, who had travelled to Washington to discuss denuclearisation talks.

Mr Trump and Kim Jong Un are to meet near the end of February at a place to be announced at a later day, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

She called the Oval Office meeting “productive” and said the US and North Korea would continue to have conversations with hopes that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons capabilities.

“The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea until we see fully and verified denuclearisation,” Ms Sanders said.

“We’ve had very good steps and good faith from the North Koreans in releasing the hostages and other moves.

“And so we’re going to continue those conversations and the president looks forward to the next meeting.”

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, right, and Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

South Korea said it expects the second summit to be “a turning point in firmly establishing a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula”.

In May, North Korea released three American detainees and sent them home with US secretary of state Mike Pompeo after his 90-minute meeting with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang.

Weeks later, Mr Trump had his first, historic meeting with Kim Jong Un in June in Singapore, but little tangible progress has been made on a vague denuclearisation agreement crafted at that summit.

No details have been released about how denuclearisation could occur.

The North Korean emissary met earlier with Mr Pompeo at a Washington hotel and they were reconvening after the White House meeting.

President Donald Trump is keen to press Mr Kim on denuclearisation (Evan Vucci/AP)

Mr Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit early this year and has exchanged multiple letters with Mr Kim.

Since the first one, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology.

A planned meeting between Mr Pompeo and the envoy, who is North Korea’s former spy chief, in New York last November was called off abruptly.

US officials said at the time that North Korea had cancelled the session.

The talks have stalled over North Korea’s refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them.

The North has demanded that the US end harsh economic penalties and provide security guarantees before the North takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.

Kim Jong Un during a recent visit to Beijing (AP)

Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that the US is still awaiting “concrete steps” by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region”.

Mr Trump has offered assurances that a second summit could allow the two leaders to seal a deal resolving the nuclear standoff and improving a relationship marked by decades of animosity and mistrust since the Korean War.

Kim Jong Un expressed frustration in an annual New Year’s address over the lack of progress in negotiations.

But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit “to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community”, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore (Kevin Lim/The Straits Times/AP)

Mr Kim’s latest trip to China, his fourth since last year, came as the North’s strongest ally has encouraged negotiations with the US while at the same time arguing in favour of immediate easing of sanctions.

The US and North Korea seemed close to war at points during 2017.

The North staged a series of weapons tests that brought it closer to its nuclear goal of one day being able to target anywhere on the US mainland.

The two sides then turned to insulting each other: Mr Trump called Mr Kim “Little Rocket Man” and North Korea said Mr Trump was a “dotard”.

Mr Kim abruptly turned to diplomacy with Seoul and Washington last year, possibly fearing economic harm from the penalties imposed over the weapons tests.

Still, even after the Singapore summit, the first between U.S. and North Korean leaders, there has been little real progress in nuclear disarmament.

Independent analysts are highly sceptical that North Korea will easily abandon a nuclear arsenal constructed in the face of deep poverty and probably seen by Mr Kim as his only guarantee of his government’s survival.

PA Media

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