The White House delivered a whipsaw message to North Korea, announcing it’s ready to start planning a second meeting with Kim Jong-un just hours after President Donald Trump’s top national security adviser said nuclear talks were stalled.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump had received “a very warm, very positive letter” from Kim seeking a follow-up
meeting. There’s no evidence Pyongyang has taken any meaningful steps towards eliminating its nuclear arsenal since the leaders’ first historic meeting in June in Singapore.
Earlier, National Security Adviser John Bolton indicated the two nations were at a stalemate.
“We’re still waiting for them,” Bolton said in a speech to the Federalist Society in Washington. “Now, the possibility of another meeting between the two presidents obviously still exists. But President Trump can’t make the North Koreans walk through the door he’s holding open.
They’re the ones that have to take the steps to denuclearise and that’s what we’re waiting for.”
The sudden turnabout illustrated how Trump has tried to keep the on-again off-again negotiations alive in the absence of a clear set of ultimate goals—or even an agreed definition
of “denuclearisation.” Trump called off a trip to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo last month, citing a lack of progress. But that appeared to change, when the president hailed the absence of nuclear missiles in a North Korean military parade as evidence that Kim is serious about eliminating his arsenal. “This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other!”
In Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged Trump and Kim to show a “bold determination” and take nuclear negotiations to the next stage. “I hope sincere talks between the US and North Korea would resume soon,” Moon told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Moon, who helped broker the original meeting between Trump and Kim, said he would focus on nuclear issues during a visit to Pyongyang next week—the first such trip by a South Korean leader in 11 years. The South Korean government is preparing to open a liaison office on the northern side of the border on Friday. Stephen Biegun, the US’s special representative for North Korea, told reporters in Seoul that it was important to maintain momentum in talks, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Biegun was visiting the region for the first time since his appointment and Trump’s abrupt cancellation of his planned Pyongyang trip with Pompeo.
Sanders said the letter from Kim, which Trump received on Monday, won’t be publicly released unless the dictator gives permission. “The primary purpose of the letter was to request and look to schedule another meeting with the president, which we are open to and are already in the process of coordinating,” Sanders said.
The administration was encouraged by the parade, Sanders said, calling it one of the first in which the country wasn’t “highlighting their nuclear arsenal.”