Trump insists all is well with Kim

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Trump insists all is well with Kim

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday at a press conference in the White House following midterm elections that his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would be held “sometime early next year.”

On the abrupt postponement of talks this week between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, Trump said “that meeting is going to be rescheduled.”

He said, “We’re going to change it because of trips that are being made,” without giving further details, but added it will happen “at another date.”

High-level talks between Pompeo and Kim in New York initially scheduled for Thursday - an opportunity to set back on track denuclearization negotiations and a possible second North-U.S. summit - were announced by the U.S. Department of State on Monday only to be canceled a day later.

Trump told reporters he is in “no hurry” and that he’s “very happy how it’s going with North Korea,” and that it’s “going fine.” But Trump reiterated that “sanctions are still on” for now.

“Now, I’d love to take the sanctions off,” Trump said. “But they have to be responsive, too. It’s a two-way street.” Trump last month used the term “two-way street” when saying that future North-U.S. summits could be held on U.S. and North Korean soil.

“There’s no rush whatsoever,” added Trump, while lauding the progress made over the past five months since his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

Trump said in October that his second summit with Kim Jong-un would likely take place after the midterm elections, and John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, indicated it could happen early next year.

North Korea has conditionally offered to permanently dismantle its key nuclear and missile engine testing sites and open them up to international inspectors in turn for “corresponding measures” from the United States. Pyongyang has especially pressed for an easing of sanctions, but Washington has maintained relief would come after the “final, fully verified denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

There is a possibility that Kim Yong-chol’s New York trip was postponed in order to coordinate a meeting with Trump at the White House. In late May, Kim Yong-chol met with Pompeo in New York and then traveled to Washington to hand-deliver a letter from the North Korean leader to Trump in the Oval Office, leading to talks to arrange the June 12 Singapore summit.

Trump is set to depart for France Friday for a three-day trip, according to the White House, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. Pompeo also is tied down on Friday with a top-level U.S.-China diplomatic security dialogue held in Washington and will join Trump in Paris Saturday.

South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha confirmed at the National Assembly Thursday that Pyongyang had requested a postponement of the high-level talks with Washington.

“The United States explained to us that it received a notification from the North Korean side on a postponement [of the meeting],” said Kang at a parliamentary session on next year’s budget. “According to the U.S. explanation, the North had asked to postpone it because both sides are extremely busy.”

Kang added that Seoul had been informed by Washington of this delay, “through various Korea-U.S. channels.”

Before the State Department announced the postponement of the meeting, Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea who had been set to travel with Pompeo to New York Thursday, held a phone conversation with Lee Do-hoon, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, to explain the situation.

“We will reconvene when our respective schedules permit,” Robert Palladino, the deputy spokesman of the U.S. State Department, said Wednesday on when the North-U.S. high-level will take place.

“Ongoing conversations continue to take place.”

There have been reports that the North and United States are deadlocked in negotiations over what concessions Washington will offer, but Palladino said that the Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol meeting cancellation simply “has to do with timing as a matter.”

Pompeo has previously indicated that Kim Jong-un is in agreement to conclude the North’s denuclearization process by the end of Trump’s first term as president, or January 2021.

But when asked if that is a hard deadline, Palladino said, “We’re not going to be driven into artificial deadlines,” backing Trump’s remark that there is “no rush.”

Palladino said Washington is “confident” that U.S. inspectors will be allowed to visit North Korea’s nuclear and missile engine testing sites.

Washington is “in regular contact with North Korea and that’s not going to change,” he added.

Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in eight years following the U.S. midterm elections Tuesday while Republicans held on to their Senate majority, gaining seats.

With their new majority in the House, Democrats plan to hold Trump more accountable for his policies, which could include putting his administration’s negotiations with North Korea under more scrutiny.

The North Korea denuclearization issue is not a particularly polarizing issue as the U.S. Congress has favored diplomacy and dialogue over any military option. However, Democrats have expressed more skepticism on the Trump administration making an effective denuclearization deal with Pyongyang.

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