US President Donald Trump says there is no need to rush the denuclearization of North Korea as he prepares to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for the second time next week.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday, Trump reiterated his plans to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear program but said he wouldn’t force anything upon Kim as long as he puts the brakes on his nuclear tests.
“I’m in no rush, as long as there’s no testing, I’m in no rush. If there’s testing, that’s another deal. But there has been no testing.” he said. “I’d just like to see ultimately denuclearization of North Korea.”
Earlier this month, Trump confirmed in a tweet that he would be meeting with the North Korean leader in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 and 28 to further discuss diplomatic efforts to denuclearize North Korea and end its missile program in exchange for removal of all economic sanctions.
The American head of state – who had once sarcastically called Kim “Rocket Man” for his many test-launches of ballistic missiles in defiance of the US-- showered the North Korean leader with praise in another tweet, saying that under his leadership North Korea “will become a different kind of Rocket - an Economic one!"
He told reporters on Tuesday that “North Korea and Chairman Kim have some very positive things in mind” about denuclearization and “we’ll soon find out” what they are.
Trump's envoy heads to Pyongyang
The US State Department said that Trump's special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, was traveling to Hanoi later in the day to continue preparations for the summit.
Biegun visited Pyongyang earlier this month, a trip he said was aimed at agreeing on “concrete deliverables” for the summit. He admitted then that while the talks were "productive" there was "hard work to do" before the summit.
Kim has long been seeking relief from harsh international sanctions, mostly spearheaded by the US, over its nuclear and missile tests.
In June 2018, he agreed to meet with Trump in Singapore, putting an end to a period of hostility that saw the two leaders exchange threats about a nuclear apocalypse.
Despite the media frenzy, however, the meeting only produced a vague denuclearization agreement, where the two sides refused to set any deadlines for the process. Trump specifically took a lot of flak at home for failing to persuade Kim to stop developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The North has since taken several steps toward denuclearization by suspending missile and nuclear testing, demolishing at least one nuclear test site, and agreeing to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility and another nuclear testing site.
The follow-up diplomacy between the two sides has borne little fruit, with North Korea complaining that Washington has yet to reciprocate for its actions.
US not too keen on sanctions removal
Prospects of an amicable solution to the issue further faded down the road as the US kept the previous sanctions in place and proceeded to introduce new sanctions against North Korean officials.
It was revealed last week that the US had even blocked attempts by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to revitalize North Korea’s aviation system.
US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told a news briefing on Tuesday that Washington would only consider removing sanctions once it receives guarantees "of a fully, finally verified denuclearization."
“We’ve been clear on sanctions. These are the world’s sanctions and that is something that ... will continue to be maintained until we’ve achieved our final result of a fully, finally verified denuclearization,” he said.
Pyongyang has denounced the Trump administration’s "gangster-like behavior," accusing Washington of betraying the spirit of the June summit by making unilateral demands while keeping the sanctions in place.
Trump talks to South Korean president
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump discussed the upcoming Kim summit with his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, whose country has taken a central role in the diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the North.
The south Korean president told Trump that Seoul was ready to resume economic engagement with Pyongyang if it helps accelerate the denuclearization process, Moon’s office said.
“We’re determined to take up that role if President Trump asks, if that’s the way to lessen the US burden,” Moon was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Moon and Kim have held multiple meetings over the past months. The two leaders have agreed to cooperate on a wide range of issues from reducing border tensions to launching a joint bid for the 2032 Olympics.
Trump planned to talk to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about the meeting on Wednesday.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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