Trump meets North Korean envoy for talks on denuclearisation
The president has spoken several times of prospects for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un early this year.
President Donald Trump has met a North Korean envoy in the Oval Office to discuss efforts to get the country to give up its nuclear programme.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump was meeting Kim Yong Chol to discuss relations between the two countries and continued progress on “North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearisation”.
The former North Korea former spy chief earlier met Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a Washington hotel.
Mr Trump has spoken several times of prospects for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un early this year.
He has also exchanged several letters with Mr Kim despite little tangible progress on a vague denuclearisation agreement reached at their historic first meeting last June in Singapore.
Since then, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology.
A planned meeting between Mr Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol 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.
Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that the Trump-Kim Jong Un dialogue was “promising” but that “we still await 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 would allow him and Mr Kim to seal a deal resolving the nuclear stand-off and improving a relationship marked by decades of animosity and mistrust since the Korean War.
Mr Kim 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.
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, as 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 the economic effect of the penalties imposed over the weapons tests.
Still, even after the Singapore summit, the first between US 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.