US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will meet near the end of February for a second summit, despite evidence North Korea is advancing its nuclear weapons programme.
The White House announced the summit and timing after Mr Trump met Friday with Kim Yong Chol, a top aide to the North Korean leader and a former spy chief.
Mr Trump’s decision to go ahead with another in-person meeting - further elevating Mr Kim’s global profile - underscores the president’s confidence that his personal involvement and negotiating skills can change the behaviour of recalcitrant regimes in ways that traditional leverage and diplomacy, past US leaders and his own emissaries could not.
“President Donald J. Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearisation and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement released after the meeting. “The President looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date.”
Mr Trump and Kim Jong Un held their unprecedented first summit in Singapore in June, concluding with a vaguely worded deal that both sides interpreted differently. While Mr Trump has credited Mr Kim’s decision to halt weapons tests and dismantle a few testing facilities with preventing a war in Asia, those moves haven’t stopped North Korea from continuing a nuclear program that puts the US and key allies at risk.
Satellite-imagery analysis and leaked American intelligence suggest North Korea has churned out rockets and warheads as quickly as ever in the year since Mr Kim halted weapons tests and paved the way for his first meeting with Trump. One arms control group estimated Mr Kim has gained enough fissile material for about six more nuclear bombs, bringing North Korea’s total to enough for between 30 and 60.
Without disclosures and inspections, it’s impossible to know exactly what weapons North Korea possesses.
Stumbling blocks to a second summit have been North Korea’s insistence that it get relief from crippling economic sanctions, and Pyongyang’s demands that any disarmament deal with Trump include the removal of America’s nuclear-capable planes and warships from the region.
The U.S. and South Korea were discussing “corresponding measures” to reward North Korea’s steps toward denuclearisation, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a news conference in Seoul this month, suggesting that details of a possible deal between Washington and Pyongyang were being worked out. Possible options for an agreement could cover everything from sanctions relief to moves to formalise the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
South Korea on Saturday welcomed a planned second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it hoped the meeting would be a "turning point" for peace on the Korean peninsula.
The announcement from Seoul's presidential office came hours after the White House said Trump would again meet the North Korean leader "near the end of February" at a location yet to be announced.