A meeting between leaders of the US and North Korea will take place in Singapore on June 12, US President Donald Trump confirmed after receiving a senior official from Pyongyang at the White House.
Kim Yong-chol is among the most senior officials in North Korea, a rank for which he was previously blacklisted by the US. He arrived in the US to deliver a letter from Kim Jong-un to Trump.
After the meeting in the Oval Office, Trump walked Kim and his delegation to their car, an honor usually reserved for a select few foreign dignitaries. He confirmed that the scheduled meeting, which had earlier appeared to be in jeopardy, will take place.
We’ll be meeting on June 12 in Singapore,” Trump said, adding that the talks with Pyongyang will take time. “I think it’ll be a process. I never said it goes in one meeting. It’s going to be a process, but the relationships are building… I think we’re going to have a positive result in the end.”
When asked about the content of the letter he received, Trump joked, asking how much money was offered for the information. He described the letter as “very nice… interesting” and refused to disclose its content. But eventually the president confessed that he hasn’t opened the envelope yet. “I may be in for a big surprise, folks,” he told the journalists.
He said the meeting with the senior North Korean official “went really well. It’s really ‘get to know you’ kind of a situation.” Trump praised the current level of relations between Washington and Pyongyang, saying that “I don’t even want to use the term maximum pressure anymore because we’re getting along.”
The fate of the much-anticipated summit on the Korean nuclear crisis seemed sealed a week ago, after Trump stunned the international community by saying that he’d cancelled the talks with Kim, due to some “tremendous anger and open hostility” in Pyongyang’s statements. The announcement came despite North Korea dismantling its Punggye-ri nuclear test site as an act of good will earlier that same day.
However, less than 24 hours later, the US leader hinted that the meeting may still take place, citing “very productive talks” with North Korea and its commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue. Shortly afterwards, American officials met with their counterparts from Pyongyang on the border between South and North Korea, in an attempt to resume preparations for the Trump-Kim summit.
The US sanctions on North Korea were among the issues discussed during the two-hour conversation, with the president saying: “I look forward to the day when I can take the sanctions off on North Korea.”
Human rights weren’t on the agenda, but Trump said that “we talked about ending the war” between North and South Korea; the countries still haven’t signed a peace treaty after the 1950-53 conflict. “That’s something that could come out … of the meeting” on June 12, he said.
Trump also spoke less critically than on Thursday about Russian diplomatic efforts with North Korea and the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Pyongyang. “I didn’t like it. But it could be very positive too… If it’s a positive meeting I love it – if it’s a negative meeting I’m not happy,” he said.
Independent political analyst Dan Glazebrook told RT that Trump may not actually be interested in seeking a diplomatic resolution, but is only looking for an excuse to employ tough measures. “It’s hard to envision a scenario, in which Kim Jong-un would be satisfied with any security guarantees that the US might offer in exchange for giving up nuclear weapons,” he said. Kim is likely to receive a proposal that he would have to refuse on June 12, which would prompt a reaction from Washington, Glazebrook added.