Trump says next meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un likely in early 2019

US President Donald Trump told reporters that he thinks the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be in early 2019.
US President Donald Trump told reporters that he thinks the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be in early 2019.PHOTO: AFP

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (REUTERS) - United States President Donald Trump said on Saturday (Dec 1) that he thinks he will next meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in January or February and that three sites for the meeting are under consideration.

Mr Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on his return from the G-20 gathering in Argentina that he thinks the meeting will be in early 2019.

"We're getting along very well. We have a good relationship," Mr Trump said, adding that at some point he will invite Mr Kim to the US.

The two sides have been engaged in talks on the leaders' second meeting after the first, unprecedented, one in Singapore in June.

The White House said in a statement on Saturday after Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping that they and Kim will strive “to see a nuclear free Korean Peninsula."

The statement said Xi and Trump “agreed that great progress has been made with respect to North Korea".

 Last month, Vice President Mike Pence said Trump would push for a concrete plan outlining Pyongyang’s moves to end its arms programs.  Pence told NBC News last month the United States would not require Pyongyang to provide a complete list of nuclear weapons and locations before the second summit, but that the meeting must produce a concrete plan.

“I think it will be absolutely imperative in this next summit that we come away with a plan for identifying all of the weapons in question, identifying all the development sites, allowing for inspections of the sites and the plan for dismantling nuclear weapons,” Pence said. 

Pence has also said it was essential that international sanctions pressure be maintained on North Korea until its complete denuclearisation was achieved.  North Korea had been angered by Washington’s refusal to ease sanctions and has warned it could resume development of its nuclear program if the United States did not drop its campaign. 

A US think tank said last month it had identified at least 13 of an estimated 20 active, undeclared missile bases inside North Korea, underscoring the challenge for American negotiators hoping to persuade Kim to give up his weapons programs.

Differences have emerged between Washington and Seoul on how to proceed with Kim, as the dovish Moon has long favoured engagement with the North. 

North and South Korea have begun to remove landmines and destroy military bunkers at parts of their common border as part of efforts to improve long-strained relations.  They have also begun work to reconnect a train line and repair another rail link across the border. 

Despite the warming ties, it remains unclear whether Kim will make his first-ever visit to the South this year, as Seoul is hoping.  Kim agreed to travel to Seoul after hosting Moon in Pyongyang in September for their third summit this year.  But prospects of a fourth Moon-Kim meeting have recently dimmed, with negotiations on denuclearising the North grinding to a halt.

In his talks with Trump at the G-20 in Argentina, Moon earned some support for the Seoul summit from the US leader – perhaps in a bid to entice Kim to make good on his pledge.  The two leaders said Kim’s visit to the South Korean capital “would provide additional momentum to their joint efforts to establish peace on the Korean peninsula,” Moon’s press secretary Yoon Young-chan said.

North Korea had entered into agreements with regional powers in 1994 and in 2005 to dismantle its nuclear program in return for economic benefits and diplomatic rewards, but those deals broke down after Pyongyang clandestinely continued to pursue building weapons of mass destruction.