Asia Pacific

North Korea's Kim breaks silence on talks with U.S.

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made his first direct acknowledgment of the prospect of talks with the U.S., addressing the issue at a meeting of the ruling party’s Politburo, state-run media reported Tuesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump agreed last month to a landmark summit with the nuclear-armed North but with no specific dates or venue set, there have been questions over Pyongyang’s intention to participate.

Tuesday’s dispatch, published by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, said that Kim had “made a report on the development of the recent situation on the Korean peninsula” during the meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s Politburo on Monday.

The North Korean leader discussed the “prospect of the DPRK-U.S. dialogue” as well as “strategic and tactical issues to be maintained” by the party, “including the future policy of international relations and the orientation corresponding to them,” according to KCNA.

DPRK is the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The North had remained publicly silent for weeks after its leader’s invitation to talks was first delivered to Trump by South Korean officials.

This fueled concerns in Washington that Seoul had overstated the Pyongyang’s willingness to negotiate over its own nuclear arsenal, even as officials scrambled to prepare for the prospective meeting.

Kim’s remarks on Monday break that public silence, although he did not specifically refer to a summit with Trump.

In his report, KCNA said Kim had also made a “profound analysis and appraisal” of the development of inter-Korean ties, and discussed the April 27 summit that will see him visit the border truce village of Panmunjom for a landmark meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official organ of the ruling Workers’ Party, filled its front page with KCNA’s report, along with pictures of Kim chairing the Politburo meeting.

The meeting will be the third summit between the two Koreas. The previous gatherings took place in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, in 2000 and 2007.

Trump, meanwhile, said Monday that he planned to meet Kim next month or in early June and hoped the discussions would ultimately lead to an end of the North’s nuclear weapons program.

“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,” Trump said ahead of a Cabinet meeting, according to a readout.

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

North Korea has told the United States it is prepared to discuss “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” when Kim meets Trump, U.S. officials have said, according to media reports.

The reports said U.S. and North Korean officials have held secret contacts recently in which Pyongyang directly confirmed its willingness to hold the unprecedented summit.

The communications, still at a preliminary stage, have involved State Department officials talking to North Korea, apparently through its United Nations mission, and intelligence officers from both sides using a separate back channel. Prior to that, Washington had relied mostly on South Korea’s assurances of Kim’s intentions.

The North Koreans are pushing to have the meeting in their capital, Pyongyang, CNN reported late last week, citing Trump administration officials, although it is unclear whether the White House would be willing to hold the talks there. The Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar has also been raised as a possible location, the sources said.

Information from AFP-Jiji added

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