Washington – Top North Korea Envoy Meets Trump At White House For Nuclear Talks
Washington – A top North Korean nuclear envoy met President Donald Trump at the White House after holding talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday in a diplomatic flurry aimed at laying the groundwork for a second U.S.-North Korea summit.
Kim Yong Chol and Pompeo, with tight smiles, posed together for photographs at a Washington hotel before holding about 45 minutes of talks that could help determine whether the two sides can make headway.
After that meeting, the White House said Trump hosted Kim Yong Chol in the Oval Office to “discuss relations between the two countries and continued progress on North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearization.”
There has been no indication of any narrowing of differences over U.S. demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States or over Pyongyang’s demand for a lifting of punishing sanctions.
Hours before Kim Yong Chol’s arrival on Thursday, Trump – who declared after the Singapore summit in June that the nuclear threat posed by North Korea was over – unveiled a revamped U.S. missile defense strategy that singled out the country as an ongoing and “extraordinary threat.”
The State Department said after Friday’s meeting that Pompeo had a “good discussion” with Kim Yong Chol “on efforts to make progress on commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore.” But it provided no specifics.
The high-level visit could yield an announcement of plans for a second summit. Both Trump and Kim have expressed an interest in arranging but some U.S.-based analysts say it would be premature due to the lack of obvious progress so far.
Their first meeting produced a vague commitment by Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but he has yet to take what Washington sees as concrete steps in that direction.
In New York, U.N. chief Antonio Guterres told reporters it was “high time” to make sure that U.S.-North Korea negotiations start again seriously “and that a road map is clearly defined for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
TRUMP SEEKING ‘WIN’?
On his last visit to Washington, Kim Yong Chol delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un to Trump that helped overcome obstacles ahead of the summit in Singapore.
CNN quoted a source familiar with the U.S.-North Korea talks as saying that the envoy would be carrying a new letter for Trump.
Pompeo had planned to meet Kim Yong Chol to discuss a second summit last November, but the meeting was postponed at the last moment.
At the start of Friday’s talks, Pompeo, joined by Stephen Biegun, U.S. special representative on North Korea, stood alongside Kim Yong Chol at the Dupont Circle Hotel in front of a bookcase with a photo of slain U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. prominently displayed.
The men did not respond to a reporter’s shouted question of whether a venue for the next summit had been selected. Communist-ruled Vietnam, which has good relations with both the United States and North Korea, has been widely touted as the most likely site.
U.S.-based analysts said that North Korea, which has developed missiles and nuclear weapons in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, would likely be seeking a clearer message from the Trump administration on any concessions it may be willing to make.
“The North Koreans need a real indication of what the U.S. is willing to put on the table,” said Jenny Town, a North Korea expert at 38 North, a Washington-based think tank.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said on Wednesday that if North Korea took concrete steps toward abandoning its weapons programs, Washington could offer a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, humanitarian aid or a permanent channel for bilateral dialogue.
Victor Cha, a former White House adviser on Asia under President George W. Bush, suggested that Trump may be so desperate for a policy “win” that he could be vulnerable to a bad deal with North Korea.
“I worry that the timing works to North Korea’s benefit,” Cha said, citing pressures on Trump such as the partial U.S. government shutdown and the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian ties to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Earlier this month, Trump defended the stuttering progress on North Korea by saying that Pyongyang had stopped missile and bomb testing and if it had not been for his administration “you’d be having a nice big fat war in Asia.”