By MATTHEW LEE and DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to broker a deal to coax the North to give up its nuclear program, the White House announced Friday.
News of a second meeting with the reclusive North Korean leader came after Trump met at the White House for 90 minutes with a North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, who had traveled to Washington to discuss denuclearization talks. Trump and Kim Jong Un are to meet near the end of February.
“The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Trump had his first, historic meeting with Kim Jong Un in June in Singapore, but little tangible progress has been made on a vague denuclearization agreement crafted at that summit. No details have been released about how denuclearization could occur.
The North Korean emissary met earlier with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a Washington hotel and they were reconvening after the White House meeting.
Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit early this year and has exchanged multiple letters with Kim.
Since the first one, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology. A planned meeting between Pompeo and the envoy, who is North Korea’s former spy chief, in New York last November was called off abruptly. U.S. officials said at the time that North Korea had canceled the session.
The talks have stalled over North Korea’s refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them.
The North has demanded that the U.S. end harsh economic penalties and provide security guarantees before the North takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that the U.S. is still awaiting “concrete steps” by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region.”
Trump has offered assurances that a second summit could allow the two leaders to seal a deal resolving the nuclear standoff and improving a relationship marked by decades of animosity and mistrust since the Korean War.
Kim Jong Un expressed frustration in an annual New Year’s address over the lack of progress in negotiations. But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit “to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.
Kim’s latest trip to China, his fourth since last year, came as the North’s strongest ally has encouraged negotiations with the U.S. while at the same time arguing in favor of immediate easing of sanctions.
The U.S. and North Korea seemed close to war at points during 2017. The North staged a series of weapons tests that brought it closer to its nuclear goal of one day being able to target anywhere on the U.S. mainland. The two sides then turned to insulting each other: Trump called Kim “Little Rocket Man” and North Korea said Trump was a “dotard.”
Kim abruptly turned to diplomacy with Seoul and Washington last year, possibly fearing economic harm from the penalties imposed over the weapons tests.
Still, even after the Singapore summit, the first between U.S. and North Korean leaders, there has been little real progress in nuclear disarmament.
Independent analysts are highly skeptical that North Korea will easily abandon a nuclear arsenal constructed in the face of deep poverty and probably seen by Kim as his only guarantee of his government’s survival.