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Trump unlikely to pay visit to Pyongyang

Washington welcomes North’s new-found willingness for talks

Sept 18,2019
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he was “probably not” going to visit North Korea in the near future, adding there was still a ways to go before a third summit could take place.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump declined to confirm whether he received an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit Pyongyang last month, only commenting that their relationship was “very good.”

On whether he would be willing to make a trip to the North Korean capital, the president said he believed the two sides were not yet ready for such a step, but that he would do it “sometime at a later future.”

“And depending on what happens, I’m sure [Kim] will love coming to the United States also,” he added.

These remarks from Trump follow a JoongAng Ilbo report that he received a second, previously undisclosed letter from Kim containing a new summit proposal and invitation to Pyongyang. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Monday confirmed to lawmakers in Seoul that such an offer had come from Kim.

Trump’s first summit with Kim, which took place in Singapore in June 2018, produced little in the way of a concrete settlement to dismantle the North’s nuclear program. This was followed by a second meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February, that collapsed prematurely and led to North Korea refusing talks for months on end.

A third and abrupt sit-down between the two took place at the demilitarized zone on June 30 and produced an agreement to restart talks, but Pyongyang continued to refrain from dialogue, citing security threats stemming from the United States and South Korea. Last week, however, North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui openly called for discussions to begin by late September, saying she hoped Washington would present a new calculation in its approach.

The U.S. State Department on Monday welcomed the North’s newfound willingness to resume denuclearization negotiations in late September and said it was prepared to “have those discussions at a time and place to be agreed,” according to a department spokesman who spoke to Yonhap News Agency.

In a statement released earlier on Monday, the director of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s U.S. affairs department said he was looking forward to continued working-level talks within “a few weeks” but that a discussion on denuclearization “may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our development are clearly removed beyond all doubt.”

The talks that emerge from exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang are expected to feature intense wrangling over the scope of the North’s denuclearization and the extent to which the United States is willing to provide concessions like sanctions relief or security guarantees to the regime.

This latter notion of security assurances was recently brought forward publicly by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said last week that Washington was willing to arrive at a “set of understandings” with North Korea that could guarantee the regime’s security if it denuclearized.

While it is not entirely clear how U.S. negotiators would back up these assurances - a pullback or scaling down of U.S. troops in South Korea being one possible, albeit controversial, option - a diminished threat of U.S. military invasion could deprive the North of its rationale to keep its costly and contentious nuclear weapons program intact.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]


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