North Korea publicly acknowledges prospect of talks with US

Trump says planned meeting with Kim Jong Un will focus on North Korea’s nuclear weapons

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: no sitting US president has ever met with a leader from North Korea. Photograph: Reuters

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: no sitting US president has ever met with a leader from North Korea. Photograph: Reuters

 

North Korea has for the first time publicly acknowledged the prospect of talks with the US as momentum builds before a summit between the leaders of the two countries.

Speaking at meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “set forth the strategic and tactical issues to be maintained” and “made a profound analysis and appraisal of the orientation of the development of the North-South [Korean] relations and the prospect of [North Korea]-US dialogue,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The reported comments are North Korea’s first mention of the potential summit with US president Donald Trump. Earlier reports announcing the historic meeting came from Chinese or South Korean sources.

The development comes as preparations for the meeting gather pace. On Monday Mr Trump said he planned to meet Mr Kim in May or early June, and that discussions would be focused on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.

“We’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June, and I think there’ll be great respect paid by both parties, and hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea,” the US leader said.

“They’ve said so. We’ve said so. Hopefully it’ll be a relationship that’s much different than it’s been for many, many years.”

Dictatorships

A meeting between the two leaders would be historic: no sitting US president has ever met with a leader from North Korea for fear of bestowing legitimacy and prestige on one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships.

Mr Trump, however, has thrown such convention aside in the hopes of rapidly solving a problem that proved intractable for past US administrations.

North Korea has told the US it is willing to discuss the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but it has not yet laid out its conditions.

In earlier rounds of negotiations Pyongyang has typically sought a security guarantee, including the removal of the 30,000 US troops from South Korea.

The meeting will follow an inter-Korean summit set for April 27th. South Korean president Moon Jae-in hopes to use that first meeting with Mr Kim to lay the groundwork for the later summit with Mr Trump.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s state news agency Yonhap quoted a North Korean diplomat as saying de-nuclearisation “can be resolved with phased, synchronised measures” – comments that will bolster concerns the regime is seeking to draw out the process.

Missiles programme

North Korea is estimated to have about 60 nuclear weapons. It is also close to completing its intercontinental ballistic missiles programme which allows the regime to equip its long-range missiles with nuclear warheads.

Despite the flurry of diplomacy, North Korean scientists are believed to be still working on these projects. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018