US, North Korea have made a lot of progress: Trump

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their first summit in Singapore on June 12 last year. They are set to meet again late next month.
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their first summit in Singapore on June 12 last year. They are set to meet again late next month.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Venue for second summit picked and will be revealed later, he says after meeting Kim's aide

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump said he had an "incredible" meeting with North Korea's nuclear envoy Kim Yong Chol and the two sides had made "a lot of progress".

The White House announced after Friday's talks that Mr Trump would hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February, but will maintain economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

"That was an incredible meeting," Mr Trump told reporters yesterday of the talks. "We've agreed to meet some time, probably the end of February. We've picked a country but we'll be announcing it in the future."

"Kim Jong Un is looking very forward to it and so am I. We've made a lot of progress that has not been reported by the media," he said.

Despite his upbeat comments, there has been no indication of any narrowing of differences over US demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons programme that threatens the US, and Pyongyang's demands for a lifting of sanctions.

The first summit held on June 12 last year in Singapore produced a vague commitment by Mr Kim Jong Un to work towards the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but he has yet to take what Washington sees as concrete steps in that direction.

Mr Trump did not elaborate on the country chosen to host the summit, but Vietnam has been considered a leading candidate.

 
 
 
 

South Korea's presidential office said it expected the upcoming summit to be a "turning point to lay the firm foundation for lasting peace on the Korean peninsula".

Analyst Harry Kazianis from the Washington-based Centre for the National Interest said: "Both nations must now show at least some tangible benefits from their diplomatic efforts during a second summit, or risk their efforts being panned as nothing more than reality TV."

Mr Trump had declared just after the Singapore meeting that the nuclear threat posed by North Korea was over. But hours before Mr Kim Yong Chol's arrival on Thursday, the US President unveiled a revamped missile defence strategy that singled out North Korea as an ongoing and "extraordinary threat".

Mr Kim Yong Chol, regarded as a member of Mr Kim Jong Un's inner circle, also held talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special representative on North Korea Stephen Biegun.

A State Department statement said Mr Biegun would travel to Sweden at the weekend to attend an international conference, which is also being attended by North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui.

"The North Koreans need a real indication of what the US is willing to put on the table," said Ms Jenny Town, a North Korea expert at 38 North, a Washington-based think tank.

Mr Victor Cha, a former White House adviser on Asia, said Mr Trump may be so desperate for a policy "win" that he could be vulnerable to a bad deal with North Korea.

"I worry that the timing works to North Korea's benefit," Mr Cha said, citing pressures on Mr Trump such as the partial US government shutdown and the ongoing probe into alleged Russian ties to his 2016 presidential campaign.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 20, 2019, with the headline 'US, North Korea have made a lot of progress: Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe