WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump has said he wants North Korea to end its nuclear programme, but has no pressing time schedule for this, as he dispatched his special envoy to finalise preparations for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next week.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Mr Trump said sanctions against North Korea would remain in place in the meantime, and noted Pyongyang's freeze on nuclear and missile testing since 2017.
"I am in no rush. There is no testing. As long as there is no testing, I am in no rush. If there is testing, that is another deal," he said.
"I would just like to see, ultimately, denuclearisation of North Korea," he added.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of Mr Kim last week that it was "time for him to deliver", but the Trump administration has moved away from demands that the North give up its nuclear weapons immediately, and has appeared to adopt a more gradual, reciprocal approach that Pyongyang has insisted on.
The US State Department said that US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was travelling to Hanoi on Tuesday to continue preparations for Mr Trump's summit with Mr Kim, scheduled to take place from Feb 27 to 28 in the Vietnamese capital.
Mr Biegun had spent three days in North Korea from Feb 6 to 8, a trip he said had been "productive" but added that there was "hard work to do" before the summit.
Mr Biegun is to hold further meetings with his North Korean coun-terpart Kim Hyok Chol ahead of the summit.
FOCUSED ON END GOAL
I am in no rush. There is no testing. As long as there is no testing, I am in no rush. If there is testing, that is another deal... I would just like to see, ultimately, denuclearisation of North Korea.
U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
Mr Kim Jong Un has appointed the little-known Mr Kim Hyok Chol to spearhead working-level talks with Mr Biegun, said South Korean officials and experts, noting the significant change.
The North Korean leader has purged and replaced many top diplomats and officials who served his father and grandfather with new, younger advisers as he gears up for the summit, they noted.
Mr Kim Hyok Chol, a former ambassador to Spain who was expelled in 2017 after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, has been working at the State Affairs Commission - a top governing body chaired by Mr Kim Jong Un, according to a South Korean official.
Mr Kim Hyok Chol replaced Vice-Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, who led negotiations in the run-up to the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore last June 12.
Mr Kim Hyok Chol, who arrived in Hanoi yesterday, is expected to meet Mr Biegun later in the week to lay the groundwork for the summit.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Trump spoke with South Korean President Moon Jae-in about the summit, and he was set to talk to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, when asked at a daily news briefing whether Mr Kim Jong Un would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on his way through the country, said he was unaware of the situation.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE