Trump plays down chances of quick North Korea breakthrough

World
By Reuters
Kim Yong-chol is the most senior official from Pyongyang to visit the US in 18 years [AFP]

NEW YORK - President Donald Trump on Thursday played down the chances of a quick breakthrough in talks with North Korea about its nuclear arsenal, as the top U.S. diplomat and a senior official from Pyongyang wrapped up two days of negotiations.

Trump, in a brief interview with Reuters aboard Air Force One on the way to Texas, said he was still hoping to hold an unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore.

“I’d like to see it done in one meeting,” he said. “But often times that’s not the way deals work. There’s a very good chance that it won’t be done in one meeting or two meetings or three meetings. But it’ll get done at some point.”

It was not clear if Trump meant he would need a second summit with Kim to reach the U.S. goal of persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear arms or if he believed more lower-level talks were needed.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and high-ranking North Korean official Kim Yong Chol concluded two days of meetings in New York on Thursday aimed at clearing the way for the summit.

“Our two countries face a pivotal moment in our relationship in which it could be nothing short of tragic to let this opportunity go to waste,” Pompeo said after the talks.

North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions have been a source of world tension for decades, has made advances in missile technology in recent years but Trump has sworn not to allow it to develop nuclear missiles that could hit the United States.

He wants North Korea to “denuclearize,” meaning to get rid of its nuclear arms, in return for relief from economic sanctions, but the leadership in Pyongyang is believed to regard nuclear weapons as crucial to its survival and has rejected unilaterally disarming. 

Trump said the North Korean envoy would most likely visit the White House on Friday to present him with a letter from Kim Jong Un.

A letter from Kim might be in response to a comment from Trump last Thursday when he canceled the summit, accusing Pyongyang of hostility, but urged the North Korean leader to “call me or write” if he had a change of heart.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic efforts in the past week to get the summit back on track.

DIPLOMATIC FLURRY

Trump and autocratic Kim traded insults and threats of war last year but in March the bellicose rhetoric gave way to a proposal for a historic summit.