U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un around the end of February but will maintain sanctions on Pyongyang, the White House said on Friday after Trump met Pyongyang's top nuclear negotiator.
The announcement came amid a diplomatic flurry in Washington surrounding the visit of Kim Yong Chol, a hardline former spy chief, and marked a rare sign of movement in a denuclearization effort that has stalled since a landmark meeting between Trump and the North Korean leader in Singapore last year.
"President Donald J. Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and (a) half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The President looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date," White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Sanders insisted, however, that while progress was being made, the United States "is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea."
Despite the summit announcement, there has been no indication of any narrowing of differences over U.S. demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons program that threatens the United States or over Pyongyang's repeated demands for a lifting of punishing sanctions.
Trump declared after the Singapore summit in June that the nuclear threat posed by North Korea was over. But hours before Kim Yong Chol's arrival on Thursday, Trump unveiled a revamped U.S. missile defense strategy that singled out the country as an ongoing and "extraordinary threat."
The first summit produced a vague commitment by Kim to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but he has yet to take what Washington sees as concrete steps in that direction.
Nevertheless, both Trump and Kim had expressed an interest in arranging a second summit, which some U.S.-based analysts say would be premature due to the lack of obvious progress so far.
Communist-ruled Vietnam, which has good relations with both the United States and North Korea, has been widely touted as the most likely site of the next summit. There has also been speculation about other possible venues, including Bangkok, Hawaii or a return to Singapore.
Friday's Oval Office meeting followed 45 minutes of talks between the North Korean envoy and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The State Department said that Pompeo had a "good discussion" with Kim Yong Chol "on efforts to make progress on commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore." It provided no specifics.
Harry Kazianis, an analyst at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest, said: "Both nations must now show at least some tangible benefits from their diplomatic efforts during a second summit, or risk their efforts being panned as nothing more than reality TV."
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