By Peggy Chang
U.S. President Donald Trump says “possible progress” is being made with North Korea but also cautions that positive signs from Pyongyang may be leading to “false hope.”
Trump’s statement comes after South Korea said Tuesday the North is willing to start talks with the United States about giving up its nuclear weapons.
In a tweet Tuesday morning, Trump said, “For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned.” But he also expressed suspicion of North Korea’s intentions and added, “The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”
South Korea’s top security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, told reporters on Tuesday that Pyongyang signaled there was no need to keep its nuclear program if military threats against the country are eliminated. Chung added North Korea was receptive to discussing denuclearization and normalizing relations with the U.S.
Chung was part of a South Korean delegation that just returned from a two-day visit to North Korea, where the group held an unprecedented meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Seoul’s statement has not been confirmed by North Korea. If true, the new stance would mark a significant shift for Kim Jong Un. Just last week, North Korea said it is willing to begin dialogue with the U.S. but rejected any preconditions for such talks. The U.S. has insisted North Korea must first commit to ending its nuclear programs before entering into talks with Pyongyang.
In the last two years, North Korea has launched numerous medium and long-range ballistic missiles and conducted two nuclear tests, in large part to develop an operational capability to target U.S. mainland cities with a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile.
The Trump administration has led international efforts to pressure Pyongyang to halt its nuclear program by imposing tough sanctions that ban billions of dollars worth of North Korean coal, iron ore, clothing products and seafood exports. The Trump administration has also said that, if necessary, it is prepared to use military force as well to eliminate the nuclear threat.
A top U.S. intelligence official expressed skepticism about North Korea’s intentions during a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington.
Kim Jong Un “shows no interest in walking away from his nuclear or ballistic missile programs,” testified Lt. General Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.” Additional missile launches are a near certainty and further nuclear tests are possible,” he warned.
VOA’s Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from the Pentagon.