UNITED NATIONS (REUTERS) - United States President Donald Trump praised North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday (Sept 25) for his courage in taking some steps to disarm, but said much work still needs to be done and sanctions must remain in place on North Korea until it denuclearises.
"The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction, nuclear testing has stopped, some military facilities are already being dismantled," Mr Trump said in his speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly.
"I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work remains to be done," he said.
"The sanctions will stay in place until denuclearisation occurs."
Mr Trump's remarks on North Korea were dramatically different from those in his speech last year at the UN assembly, when he threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea and mocked the North Korean leader as "Rocket Man" on a "suicide mission".
Since then, Mr Trump held an unprecedented summit with Mr Kim in Singapore on June 12 which yielded a broad pledge by Mr Kim to "work towards" denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and reduce the risk of war.
However, Mr Kim's commitments and actions so far have fallen far short of Washington's demands for a complete inventory of North Korea's weapons programmes and irreversible steps to give up a nuclear arsenal that threatens the US.
Mr Trump has nevertheless heaped personal praise on Mr Kim and expressed enthusiasm for a second summit.
On Monday, he said he expected this to be announced "pretty soon" but that the location had yet to be determined.
During a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the UN on Monday, Mr Trump said Mr Kim has been "really very open and terrific, frankly".
"I think he wants to see something happen."
Mr Trump singled out Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, Mr Moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping for their support over North Korea, in spite of some questions about the commitment of the latter two leaders to maintaining tough sanctions on Pyongyang.
At a meeting last week with Mr Moon, Mr Kim promised to dismantle a missile site and also a nuclear complex if the US took "corresponding action".
Mr Moon told an event in New York on the sidelines of the UN meeting that declaring a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War would encourage North Korea to move further with denuclearisation.
Mr Moon said Mr Kim had told him the “corresponding measures” he was seeking were security guarantees Mr Trump pledged in Singapore and moves towards normalisation of relations with Washington.
“I believe that setting a timetable for all these measures is a task for the second US-North Korea summit,” Mr Moon said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that he hoped to travel to North Korea before the end of the year to make final preparations for a second Trump-Kim summit.
Mr Pompeo has proposed a meeting with the North's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the General Assembly this week.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said last week that the two had agreed to meet but that the meeting could take place later.