President Trump will hold a second summit with Kim Jong-un in February at a location that has yet to be determined.
The White House made the announcement after the president met with Kim Yong Chol, the North Korean envoy to the U.S., behind closed doors.
Kim was in Washington to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He made an unannounced visit to the White House to hand-deliver a letter from Kim at the conclusion of the planned talks.
His trip to Washington was a sign that the countries considered themselves to be making progress on a nuclear deal, following Trump and Kim’s first summit in June in Singapore.
North Korea recently warned the United States that it could make an about-face on nuclear and missile tests if it did not see advancements in the conversation.
Trump cryptically left a poster on the table at a Cabinet meeting immediately after that cautioned, to no one in particular, that sanctions are coming.
Kim Yong Chol made the widely expected but previously unannounced trip to the White House — which Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said would discuss ‘continued progress on North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearization’ — after a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the State Department characterized as positive.
She said in a readout after the fact that a second summit is on the books for February, with a time and place to be announced at a later date.
‘President Donald J. Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The President looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,’ she said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomes North Korean General Kim Yong Chol to talks at a Washington hotel
Kim Yong Chol is the first North Korean dignitary in nearly two decades to spend the night in Washington, staying at a fashionable hotel a short drive from the White House where Pompeo welcomed him near a framed portrait of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
Kim Jong Un and Trump held a landmark first meeting in Singapore in June where they signed a vaguely worded document, with Kim pledging to work towards the ‘denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.’
But progress has since stalled as Pyongyang and Washington — which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea — disagree over what that means.
North Korean official Kim Yong Chol is hidden by umbrellas as he arrives at Beijing airport on his way to Washington
Trump has repeatedly voiced eagerness to see Kim Jong Un again — even opining that the two are ‘in love’ after their Singapore summit, the first meeting ever between sitting leaders from the two countries that never formally ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
Tensions began to abate a year ago with the encouragement of South Korea’s dovish president, Moon Jae-in. Trump has repeatedly hailed his own diplomacy as a triumph, recently saying there would have been ‘a nice big fat war in Asia’ if it were not for him.
– Vietnam ready to host –
US President Donald Trump gestures to the cameras as he meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in their landmark June 2018 summit in Singapore
Trump has said to expect an announcement soon about the second summit.
In Vietnam, a government source told AFP that ‘logistical preparations’ were under way to host the summit, most likely in the capital Hanoi or coastal city of Danang, but that no decision had been made.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that Vietnam was ready to welcome the two leaders, noting that Hanoi has a growing relationship with the United States despite war memories.
‘We don’t know the final decision. However, if it happens here we will do our best to facilitate the meeting,’ he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
For Trump, the made-for-television summitry with the young and elusive North Korean leader also offers a welcome respite from a steady barrage of negative headlines at home.
An explosive report late Thursday in BuzzFeed said that Trump ordered his lawyer to lie to Congress about a project in Russia, and Trump’s insistence that Congress fund a wall on the Mexican border has shuttered the US government for nearly a month.
For Kim, the stakes are more existential as he seeks guarantees of the survival of his regime.
Kim, backed by ally China as well as South Korea, is also hoping for an easing of international sanctions, but the United States insists on maintaining maximum pressure until Pyongyang moves forward on giving up its nuclear weapons.
Although in Singapore Kim promised his ‘unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,’ the United States expects North Korea to give up nuclear weapons assembled over decades of work while Pyongyang more broadly seeks an end to what it sees as US threats.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says goodbye to top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol after July 2018 talks in Pyongyang
‘I think there is somewhat of a general consensus of what denuclearization means. I think there is obviously still disagreement on how to get there — whether denuclearization is the end of the process or the process itself,’ said Jenny Town, managing editor of the 38 North web journal on North Korea policy at the Stimson Center.
She noted that Americans have traditionally preferred to hash out the details of agreements before big summits, while the type of leader-driven diplomacy favored by Trump is more common in Asia.
‘People have been very skeptical of this top-down approach, but we won’t know unless we try it,’ Town said.