Donald Trump says second summit with Kim Jong-un will happen ‘quite soon’ as Moon Jae-in relays Kim’s vow to remove nuclear weapons
Scepticism remains about whether Kim has taken any concrete steps on denuclearisation but that seems unlikely to deter Trump from pushing toward a follow-up to the Singapore summit in June
US President Donald Trump said on Monday that a second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is likely to take place “quite soon” and to follow a similar format to the Singapore summit, albeit in a different location.
Trump told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York that America’s relationship with the country – whose leader he belittled in his debut address to the UN General Assembly last year as “Little Rocket Man” – has improved significantly.
Kim had responded to Trump’s insult by calling the US president “mentally deranged”.
“It was a different world,” the US president was quoted on Monday by AFP. “That was a dangerous time. This is one year later, a much different time.”
Ahead of Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly this week, one of the most closely watched parleys on Monday was Trump’s meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, that briefed Trump on the results of last week’s inter-Korean summit between Moon and Kim in Pyongyang.
Through a translator, Moon told his US counterpart that he brought a message from Kim: a commitment by the North Korean leader to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula, and an assurance that Kim is genuinely looking to take action to relinquish the hermit state’s nuclear programme.
“Chairman Kim conveyed unwavering trust and expectations in you,” Moon was quoted as saying to Trump in White House press pool reports. “You are indeed the only person who can solve this.”
Trump responded to Kim by saying he would have a second summit with the North Korean leader “in the not too distant future”, according to the reports.
The US president said he expected the meeting to follow a format similar to the historic Singapore summit with Kim in June, albeit in a different location. “We are in no rush. No hurry,” Trump said, adding that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is working out the details for the summit.
Pompeo also told reporters that he expected to travel to Pyongyang “before too long as well to make the final preparations for the second meeting between the two leaders”.
The secretary's previously planned trip to North Korea was called off by Trump late last month.
“It looks like we’ll have a second summit quite soon,” Trump told reporters. “As you know, Kim Jong-un wrote a letter – a beautiful letter – asking for a second meeting and we will be doing that.”
The White House said early this month that Kim had asked for a second meeting with Trump in a “positive” letter.
In addition to his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump has a series of bilateral meetings with allies such as French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Theresa May and Japan’s Shinzo Abe, with whom he met late on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Pompeo – who has visited Pyongyang three times – will preside over a Security Council meeting on Thursday where he will brief members on how the administration can persuade the North to turn its back on nuclear weapons.
He will also defend the Trump administration’s use of sanctions to force change, which have seen Chinese and Russian companies punished for doing business in North Korea.
In a joint press conference with Trump's national security adviser John Bolton and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Monday, Pompeo said “President Trump's leadership, combined with the efforts of countries to enforce the pressure campaign, has de-escalated tensions with North Korea and brought us closer to our final goal: the final fully verified denuclearisation of the DPRK, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong-un”.
Although a summit last week between Moon and Kim “yielded another positive step forward,” Pompeo said, “the president remains resolute [that] now is not the time to ease pressure” on Pyongyang.
Pompeo said last week in a statement that North Korea has committed to dismantling its nuclear weapons programme by the time Trump’s term ends, in January 2021.
Pompeo also said he has invited his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong-ho, to meet this week in New York. The US State Department has not confirmed whether any meeting is to take place between Pompeo and Ri.
“We certainly stand by ready to meet if they’re able to,” the department’s spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week.
Pompeo is also expected to chair a ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council’s permanent members, including China, Russia, France and Britain on Thursday, the US State Department said last week.
That meeting would be the first face-to-face encounter between the US and Chinese foreign ministers since Washington imposed sanctions on a Chinese defence unit and its director last Thursday, drawing a protest from Beijing and countermeasures over the weekend.
Although the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that Foreign Minister Wang Yi would lead a Chinese delegation and speak at the General Assembly’s general debate session that starts on Tuesday, it has released no details related to the timing of the ministerial meeting initiated by the US.
On Friday morning, Wang is to join former US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin for a Council on Foreign Relations discussion on “China’s international relations”, the New York-based think tank said in an email on Monday. The event had originally been set for Monday evening but was rescheduled.
The ministerial meeting would allow Pompeo “to update the Security Council on our efforts toward the final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea, as well as underscore the need for all member states to enforce existing sanctions”, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters last Tuesday.
Nauert later told reporters that on Thursday, Pompeo would join the P5 [five permanent members of the UN Security Council] foreign ministers to address some of the world’s most pressing global issues”. The statement did not mention the North Korean nuclear issue.
Michael Green, senior vice-president for Asia and the Japan chair at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told the South China Morning Post that the people taking part in the ministerial meeting would be “foreign ministers from the P5 and the other associate members of the [Security Council]”.
“Often for these meetings, they [P5] will invite South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers to participate or sit in,” said Green, who served on the staff of the US National Security Council from 2001 through 2005.
“The message I think Secretary Pompeo was bringing to that group is that they're moving forward with negotiations with North Korea,” Green said. “Secretary Pompeo [and] special envoy for North Korea Steve Biegun are prepared to have substantive meetings with their North Korean counterparts before [the next] Kim-Trump summit.”
Kicking off his meetings, Trump addressed “the world drug problem and a big problem it is” at an event that saw 130 countries pledge to step up action to fight the illegal drug trade and combat addiction.
In his 41-minute speech at the General Assembly in 2017, the US president made clear he wanted to turn the clock back on the last half-century’s growth of global rules and institutions to return to the primacy of the nation-state.
The UN’s number one financial backer, the United States, has moved under Trump to cut funding to the world body, notably to peacekeeping missions that are key to the UN’s goal of promoting peace and security.
“The United Nations has tremendous potential and that potential is being met, slowly but surely,” Trump told the meeting attended by UN chief Antonio Guterres.
While Trump will dial down the rhetoric against Kim, there seems to be little prospect of his doing likewise with another of his adversaries, Iran’s Hassan Rowhani.
The US annoyed many of its allies in Europe by pulling out of a deal they jointly negotiated in 2015 that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear programme.
US allies in the Middle East, notably Saudi Arabia, have, however, been delighted by Trump’s stance.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg