WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he would be holding a second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “in the not too distant future.”
In New York for high-level meetings at the United Nations, Trump offered effusive praise for Kim and said the negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal have resulted in “tremendous progress” – an assertion rejected by several outside experts and even some of Trump’s own advisers.
“Chairman Kim has been terrific,” Trump said Monday, arguing that the U.S. is “making more progress than anybody has made ever” in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and stop producing nuclear material.
Trump made his remarks at the start of a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae In, who traveled to Pyongyang last week in an effort to jump-start denuclearization talks between the three countries. Moon and Trump were in New York for the U.N. sessions, and they held a private meeting Monday to discuss North Korea, trade and other issues.
Moon and Trump have both made the denuclearization talks a central focus of their respective administrations. Moon made his trip to North Korea last week as talks between the U.S. and North Korea appeared to stall, with Trump suggesting that North Korea had not followed through on Kim’s pledge at the Singapore summit to work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
But experts have noted that the June agreement was vaguely worded and did not include any specific details about how North Korea would go about dismantling its nuclear program. Last month, a United Nations watchdog organization reported there were no signs that Kim’s government had stopped its nuclear weapons activities.
Talk of a second Trump-Kim summit comes only weeks after Trump nixed a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and declared in a tweet “we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization.”
Moon said that Kim agreed last week to take further steps toward denuclearization, including permanently dismantling its Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch pad and allowing international inspectors to observe the process.
But skeptics have said those steps will not significantly alter North Korea’s existing nuclear capabilities. And State Department officials have acknowledged that Kim has not taken what they see as a vital first step toward denuclearization: offering a detailed list of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounded a tougher note on North Korea at Monday’s U.N. meetings. During a briefing with reporters in New York, Pompeo said the U.S. expects “full, complete, verified denuclearization of North Korea.” And until that happens, he said, the U.S. will not ease the crippling economic sanctions against the Kim regime.
Still, Pompeo defended the prospect of a second summit, saying it’s a new strategy after years of failed negotiations.
“We tried to do step-for-step. We tried to do trade-for-trade. Each of those failed,” Pompeo said.
Now, “we’re coming at this from a different direction,” Trump’s chief diplomat added. “We’re bringing the two senior leaders, the individuals who can actually make the decisions that will move this process forward, bring them together so we can continue to make progress towards what the U.N. Security Council has demanded and what Chairman Kim has promised he would do.”
The main purpose of Trump’s meeting with Moon was to announce a new trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea. Trump, a skeptic of free trade agreements, had long sought to rework the 2012 deal, known as Korus. Experts have said the changes are mostly cosmetic.
“Our two countries have set an example of friendship and cooperation for trade that rarely you see in this age,” the president said during an event later Monday with Moon. “I’m very honored to be a part of it.”
Trump briefly returned to North Korea before signing the document, saying the U.S. has “an agreement” to work out another summit with Kim and he reiterated his position that the U.S. is making progress on curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Contributing: Thomas Maresca
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