President Donald Trump, arriving at the United Nations on Monday morning, said he and Kim Jong Un will meet for a second time “quite soon.”
“It looks like we’ll have a second summit quite soon. As you know, Kim Jong Un wrote a letter – a beautiful letter – and asked me for a second meeting and we will be doing that. (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo will work that out in the immediate future,” Trump said, claiming there has been “tremendous progress on North Korea.”
Diplomacy between the US and North Korea has continued in fits and starts since Trump met with Kim in Singapore in June, with Trump most recently canceling Pompeo’s planned trip to Pyongyang last month, believing the visit would not be fruitful.
Trump’s announcement follows weeks of encouragement on the part of North and South Korea for the US President to continue his diplomatic outreach to Pyongyang.
Trump has continued to express a rosy optimism about the fate of the US-North Korea diplomatic effort and repeatedly expressed confidence in the strength of his personal relationship with Kim. The second summit, Trump said later in the day, would take place at an undetermined location, though likely not in Singapore, where the leaders first met in June.
Nonetheless, US officials have worried that a second summit between Trump and Kim is premature and would hand North Korea too much in return for little concrete and verifiable progress toward denuclearization.
Arriving at the UN headquarters on Monday morning, Trump also touted how much the world has changed since he threatened during his UN speech a year ago to “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the US or its allies.
“This is a different world. That was a very dangerous time. This is one year later, a much different time,” Trump said.
Sitting down hours later with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump hailed the progress the two have made with the North Korean leader and gobbled up Moon’s praise of Trump’s role in the process.
Moon repeatedly said he and Kim believe Trump’s personal involvement has been critical to the diplomatic efforts, feeding a belief Trump already holds.
“Chairman Kim wants to repeatedly convey his unwavering trust in expectations for you while expressing his hope the meet you soon … you are indeed the only person who can solve this problem,” he said.
Moon has consistently said Kim is committed to denuclearization. During an announcement in Seoul on Thursday, Moon said the North Korean leader had promised to should down the second nuclear test site, Tongchang-ri.
“When Tongchang-ri is dismantled, then no more missile launches will be possible. This means no more development of missiles,” Moon said.
Trump, meanwhile, touted Kim’s “tremendous enthusiasm” for reaching a deal with the US on denuclearization, but said there is “no rush” to reach an agreement.
“I see tremendous enthusiasm on behalf of Chairman Kim for making a deal,” Trump said. “We are in no rush. We are in no hurry. … We’ve made more progress than anybody’s made in – ever.”
The comments indicated once again that Trump is captivated by Kim’s rhetoric about denuclearization, but is less focused on North Korea’s ongoing efforts to quietly advance its nuclear program and has not taken any verifiable steps toward denuclearization.
He touted the strength of his relationship with Kim Jong Un, saying: “The relationship is very good. In fact, in some ways it’s extraordinary.”
Aides call for caution
In a sign of the diverging views between Trump and his top foreign policy aides, just a day earlier US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said she believed talk of a second summit was premature.
“I think Secretary Pompeo needs to have a couple more conversations before the President meets with Kim again,” Haley said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Pompeo had also expressed caution about the likelihood of a second summit between Trump and Kim in the near future, but on Monday defended Trump’s decision to forge ahead with a second meeting.
“We went at this the other way for decades, and North Korea continued to build its nuclear program,” he said.
“We tried to do details, we tried to do step for step, we tried to do trade for trade – each of those failed. We’re coming at this from a different direction. We’re bringing the two senior leaders – the individuals who can actually make the decisions that will move this process forward – bring them together so that we can make progress.”
Asked if it would be “ludicrous” to have a meeting without more progress, Pompeo replied: “Absolutely not. If we can continue to make progress and have conversations, I think there’s enormous value in that.”