HANOI (REUTERS) - North Korea leader Kim Jong Un said on Thursday (Feb 28) that he is willing to denuclearise and he would not be in Vietnam holding a second summit with US President Donald Trump if he were not prepared to pursue the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Mr Kim and Mr Trump began a second day of talks earlier on Thursday in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, with both expressing hope for progress on improving relations and the key issue of denuclearisation.
Asked by a journalist during the meeting if he's willing to denuclearise, Mr Kim said: "If I'm not willing to do that, I won't be here right now."
Mr Trump, responding to that, said: “That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard.”
The two leaders were sitting across from each other at a conference table, with their aides.
Mr Kim did not elaborate on what denuclearisation would entail, but when asked if he was ready to take concrete steps, Mr Kim said they had just been talking about that.
“Hope you give us more time to talk. Even a minute is precious,” he told reporters.
While the United States is demanding that North Korea give up all of its nuclear and missile programmes, the North wants to see the removal of a US nuclear umbrella for its Asian allies such as South Korea and Japan.
The two leaders' historic summit in Singapore in June 2018, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, produced a vague statement in which Mr Kim pledged to work towards denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
But there has been little progress since.
Kicking off the second day of talks at the French-colonial-era Metropole hotel earlier, Mr Trump again stressed that the talks aimed at tackling North Korea’s nuclear threat should not be rushed.
“I’ve been saying very much from the beginning that speed is not that important to me. I very much appreciate no testing of nuclear rockets, missiles, any of it, very much appreciate it,” Mr Trump told reporters before his session with Mr Kim.
“Chairman Kim and myself, we want to do the right deal.”
North Korea has conducted no nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests since late 2017.
Asked by a reporter if he was confident about a deal, Mr Kim, through an interpreter, said: “It’s too early to tell, but I wouldn’t say I’m pessimistic. For what I feel right now, I do have a feeling that good results will come out.
“There must be people who watch us having a wonderful time, like a scene from a fantasy movie. We have so far made lots of efforts, and it’s time to show them."
Mr Trump reiterated North Korea’s potential, if a deal can be done, saying that the isolated country could be an economic powerhouse.
Asked if they were discussing human rights, Mr Trump said they were discussing everything.
The two leaders took a brief break from their talks after about half an hour to stroll in the leafy hotel courtyard, by a swimming pool.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim have a series of meetings scheduled at the Metropole and will later hold a “joint agreement signing ceremony”, the White House said.
After that, Mr Trump plans a news conference at 3.50pm local time (4.50pm Singapore time).
The White House has given no indication of what the signing ceremony might involve, although the two sides’ discussions have included the possibility of a political statement to declare the 1950-53 Korean War over.
They have also discussed partial denuclearisation measures, such as allowing inspectors to observe the dismantling of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, US and South Korean officials say.
US concessions to North Korea could include opening liaison offices or clearing the way for inter-Korean projects, but critics say Mr Trump risks squandering vital leverage if he gives away too much, too quickly.
Mr Kim said he would welcome the US opening a liaison office in Pyongyang, while Mr Trump said: “Not a bad idea.”
Liaison offices are below the level of embassies but would be a key initial step in normalising relations between the former wartime foes.
US intelligence officials have said there is no sign North Korea will give up its entire arsenal of nuclear weapons, which Mr Kim’s ruling family sees as vital to its survival, and analysts say Pyongyang is unlikely to commit to significant steps without an easing of punishing US-led sanctions.
Listen to a wrap of the first Trump-Kim summit on June 12, 2018, that was held in Singapore: