Trump declines to comment on report of Kim's invitation to N. Korea

WASHINGTON/SEOUL • US President Donald Trump on Monday declined to comment on a newspaper report that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had invited him to visit Pyongyang, and said conditions were not ready yet for such a visit.

"The relationship is very good but I don't want to comment on that," Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.

A South Korean newspaper on Monday cited diplomatic sources as saying Mr Kim had invited Mr Trump to visit Pyongyang in a letter sent last month amid stalled denuclearisation talks.

Mr Trump said he would "probably not" be inclined to visit North Korea in the short term, but did not rule out an eventual visit.

"I would do it... at some time in a later future, and depending on what happens I'm sure he'll love coming to the United States also. But, no, I don't think it's ready for that. I think we have a ways to go yet," Mr Trump said.

In the letter, Mr Kim spoke of his "willingness" for a third summit and extended an invitation for Mr Trump to visit the North Korean capital, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified source.

Mr Trump said on Aug 9 that he had received a "very beautiful letter" from Mr Kim.

But United States officials have not said anything about a second letter last month. Mr Trump and Mr Kim have met three times since June last year to discuss ways to resolve a crisis over North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes, but substantive progress has been scant. An unidentified director-general for US affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry said on Monday that he hoped a "good meeting" with working-level US officials would take place "in a few weeks".

 
 

But whether a meeting would lead to a "crisis or chance" was up to the United States, the official said, calling for a more flexible approach.

"The discussion of denuclearisation may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our development are clearly removed beyond all doubt," the official said in a statement carried by North Korea's official KCNA news agency.

North Korea's Vice-Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said last week that Pyongyang was willing to have "comprehensive discussions" late this month.

Mr Trump subsequently said that he would be willing to meet Mr Kim at some point this year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'Trump declines to comment on report of Kim's invitation to N. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe