North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he is willing to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump for a third time for nuclear talks — if Washington comes to the table with the “correct posture” — but laid down a year-end deadline “for a bold decision from the U.S.”
In a dispatch carried by the official Korean Central News Agency on Saturday, Kim said he wouldn’t welcome a repeat of the Hanoi summit in February, when Trump walked out without securing a nuclear disarmament deal. While hailing his relationship with Trump, Kim also said the U.S. has been making “gangster-like” unilateral demands and should abandon that approach.
“If the U.S. adopts a correct posture and comes forward for the third DPRK-U.S. summit with a certain methodology that can be shared with us, we can think of holding one more talks,” Kim said in a speech at North Korea’s rubber-stamp legislature, according to the KCNA report.
“Anyway, we will wait for a bold decision from the U.S. with patience till the end of this year,” he said, “but I think it will definitely be difficult to get such a good opportunity as the previous summit.”
The North Korean leader’s comments suggest he is eager to restart stalled negotiations despite his cryptic threat earlier to explore a “new path” if crippling sanctions remained in place.
That threat, as well as warnings by senior North Korean officials after the Hanoi breakdown, stoked fears of a return to missile launches and nuclear tests.
Trump, for his part, said Thursday that the door to dialogue remains open and that a summit “could happen,” but he also continued to maintain a hard line on the easing of sanctions and rejected calls to revive economic projects between North and South Korea.
Kim also said he wouldn’t necessarily be focused on a summit to obtain sanctions relief and wouldn’t hesitate to reach an agreement if the U.S. brings up an idea that is acceptable to both sides, the report said.
But, in an ominous note, Kim also touted his “treasured sword for defending the sovereignty of the country,” an allusion to his nuclear weapons program.
“What is clear is that if the U.S. persists in its present political calculation method, the prospect of settling the issues will be gloomy and very dangerous,” Kim said.
“Self-reliant national defense capabilities constitute a powerful treasured sword for defending the sovereignty of the country,” he added. “We have to always keep in mind that peace can be ensured only by powerful military capabilities, and firmly maintain the principle of self-defense and keep increasing the defense capabilities of the country.”
Kim’s remarks were released just a day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with Trump in Washington.
At that meeting, Trump said the time was not right for easing sanctions and inter-Korean projects, dealing a blow to a push by Moon, who has gambled much of his political capital on breaking fresh life into the U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks.
However, Trump did offer a qualified answer to a question about whether he would be willing to accept “smaller deals” as part of a larger process.
“I’d have to see what the deal is,” he said. “There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen. Things could happen. You can work out, step by step, pieces.”
But, he added, “at this moment, we’re talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons.”
Despite Moon’s gambit, Kim — who has held three summits with the South Korean leader — blasted Seoul for acting like “an officious ‘mediator’ and ‘booster,'” saying it should instead “be a party advocating the interests of the (Korean) nation with its own spirit and voice.”
Asked about Kim’s comments, media reports quoted South Korea’s presidential office as saying Seoul is committed to keeping the atmosphere of dialogue alive and helping negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang resume at an early date.
Moon is reportedly seeking to hold another summit soon with Kim, possibly to lay the groundwork for a third meeting of the U.S. and North Korean leaders.