Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

Trump meets North Korea's lead negotiator at White House

Former spy chief Kim Yong-chol with America's chief diplomat Mike Pompeo Former spy chief Kim Yong-chol with America's chief diplomat Mike Pompeo Credit Reuters
Jeannette Daniel | 19 January, 2019, 05:57

A senior emissary from Kim Jong-un has been holding talks in Washington aimed at arranging a second summit between the North Korean leader and Donald Trump.

"President Donald J. Trump will meet with Kim Yong-chol, Vice Chairman of the Workers Party of Korea and Chairman of the Korea Asia Pacific Peace Committee, today at 12:15pm in the Oval Office", White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

"I worry that the timing works to North Korea's benefit", Cha said, citing pressures on Trump such as the partial US government shutdown and the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian ties to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Kim Yong-chol's visit to Washington is the first sign of movement in nuclear diplomacy with North Korea for months, BBC state department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher reports.

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino called talks that Kim Yong Chol had before and after the White House visit with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo "good".

General Kim Yong Chol, a former North Korean spymaster who is often referred to as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's right-hand man, is reported to be bringing Trump a personal letter from Kim.

Aside from those bare-bones descriptions, the administration had nothing to say about the substance of the day's meetings or what would be gained from a second summit. U.S. officials said at the time that North Korea had cancelled the session.

Mr Kim's latest trip to China, his fourth since previous year, came as the North's strongest ally has encouraged negotiations with the United States while at the same time arguing in favor of immediate easing of sanctions. Lee believes the diplomatic window for negotiations won't stay open forever, however, and said the next summit could be a make-or-break moment for Trump's aspirations to hash out a viable deal on denuclearizing North Korea.

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Kim's trip to Washington was a sign that the two countries considered themselves to be making enough progress on a nuclear deal, following Trump and Kim's first meeting in in June in Singapore, to have another face-to-face conversation. But hours before Kim Yong Chol's arrival on Thursday, Trump unveiled a revamped US missile defence strategy that singled out the country as an ongoing and "extraordinary threat".

In a new year's speech a few weeks ago, Mr Kim said he was committed to denuclearisation, but warned that he would change course if United States sanctions remained.

Trump and Kim Jong Un's summit in Singapore in June ended with a commitment from Kim Jong Un to "work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", but negotiations appear to have stalled since then.

For Kim, the stakes are more existential as he seeks guarantees of the survival of his regime.

The United States wants swift and irreversible denuclearisation, while North Korea has made clear it wants phased, synchronized and reciprocal actions that would include easing punishing sanctions.

The summit was announced even though there has been no indication of any narrowing of differences over USA demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States and Pyongyang's demands for a lifting of punishing sanctions.

"People have been very skeptical of this top-down approach, but we won't know unless we try it", Town said.

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