North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he’s willing to hold a third summit with President Donald Trump as long as the US offers acceptable terms for an agreement by the end of the year.
In remarks carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim said he wouldn’t welcome a repeat of the Hanoi summit in February, when Trump walked out without securing a nuclear disarmament deal. While Kim hailed his relationship with Trump, he also said the US has been making unilateral demands and should abandon that approach.
“In any case we will wait with patience for the US courageous decision by the end of this year but it will clearly be tough to get such a good opportunity like the last time,” Kim said in a speech at North Korea’s rubber-stamp legislature, according to the KCNA report.
Kim’s remarks suggest an attempt to breathe new life into the stalled negotiations. While Trump said that the door for dialogue remains open and a summit “could happen,” he also rejected calls to revive economic projects between North and South Korea. In a leadership shuffle announced, Kim consolidated his power and granted new legitimacy to officials involved in the talks.
“They want to see the US make the next move — that the steps that they took, such as returning war remains and shutting down missile sites, are even more grounds to demand the US to relieve sanctions,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korean National Diplomatic Academy. “However, the US has taken a more hard-line stance since the Hanoi summit.”
Kim said he doesn’t have to be fixated on a summit to obtain sanctions relief, and he wouldn’t hesitate to reach an agreement if the US brings up an idea that is acceptable to both sides, KCNA reported. “What is clear is that if the US clings to the current political reckoning, the outlook for resolving problems will be dark and very risky,” Kim said.
During a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump said now isn’t the right time for inter-Korean projects including reopening a joint industrial park kept shuttered by sanctions.
Responding to Kim’s speech, South Korea repeated its stance of promoting the talks. “Our government will do what we can in order to maintain the current momentum for dialogue and help negotiations between the US and North Korea resume at an early date,” Moon’s office said in a text message.
Kim’s year-end deadline probably reflects his desire to gain an edge in negotiations before Trump turns his focus towards next year’s presidential election, according to Shin Beomchul, director at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies’ Center for Security and Unification.
“The confrontation is likely to continue as there’s a low chance that the US will change its position,” Shin said. “The possibility for a North-South summit is decreasing and there will be limited outcomes, if any.”