A second meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will have to wait until after the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Trump said Tuesday that campaigning for the upcoming polls left him with no choice, after earlier announcing that the White House had narrowed the summit venue to three or four possible locations.
“It’ll be after the midterms. I just can’t leave now,” pool reports quoted Trump as saying as he flew to Iowa for a political rally.
Earlier, Trump told reporters that Singapore — the site of the first summit in June — was unlikely, adding that the date “won’t be too far away.”
“We’re talking about three or four different locations,” Trump said, adding that “eventually” a meeting could be held in the United States.
“On their soil also,” he said.
Asked if his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida was an option, he said both he and Kim would like that.
“I think it would be good,” he said. “But we’ll see.”
Trump also touted U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “very, very good” meeting with Kim in Pyongyang over the weekend. Pompeo met with Kim on Sunday in Pyongyang to discuss the next summit and salvage denuclearization talks that had appeared to hit a wall.
“I returned late last night from North Korea from a trip where we made real progress. While there is still a long way to go and much work to do, we can now see a path to where we’ll achieve the ultimate goal which is the full and final verified denuclearization of North Korea,” Pompeo said during a short, televised announcement to reporters at the White House.
“We will, in short order, be able to talk about when the president will get to meet with him at what will be the second summit.”
He did not take questions.
Trump has repeatedly boasted about what he says are North Korean steps toward denuclearization, hailing on Tuesday the absence of missile or nuclear tests this year and the recent return of remains of U.S. service members killed in the 1950-53 Korean War as “incredible progress.”
“You have no nuclear tests, you have no rockets, and we have a very good relationship with Chairman Kim, which is very important,” Trump said.
“I like him, he likes me, the relationship is good.”
Critics have assailed Trump, however, saying there is no evidence the North has taken significant steps toward denuclearization, despite the president’s claim to the contrary.
For its part, Pyongyang points to the May demolition of its aging Punggye-ri nuclear test site in front of foreign reporters, its plans to permanently close a key missile-engine testing site and a promise to close its Nyongbyon nuclear facility in exchange for “corresponding” steps by the U.S.
The North is seeking an easing of tough international sanctions and a formal declaration ending the Korean War, which was halted in an armistice, leaving the U.S. and North still technically in a state of war.
Earlier this week, the U.S. said the North had agreed to allow inspectors into Punggye-ri, which consists of several tunnels where the Pyongyang has conducted all of its nuclear tests.
It was unclear, however, how meaningful such a step would be since details were scant on who the inspectors would be and because the tunnel entrances had already been destroyed and the site likely sanitized.
Still, the U.S. State Department on Tuesday pointed to the invitation as a positive move toward denuclearization.
“That’s a very good step,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a televised news conference. “What you have seen were a bunch of journalists brought out to that site, and you saw some sort of an explosion. Sending in inspectors to take a look around is an entirely different step and a step in the right direction.”