U.S. President Donald Trump, after meeting with a senior envoy from Pyongyang, said a planned summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un was back on for June 12 in Singapore.
“I think it’s probably going to be a very successful, ultimately a successful process,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn.
Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to the North Korean leader, was the highest level figure from the secretive state to hold talks at the White House since a senior envoy visited former President Bill Clinton in 2000. He delivered a letter from Kim Jong Un to Trump.
The president said he expected a number of summits would be needed to settle all outstanding issues. "Frankly, I said, 'Take your time,'" Trump said.
North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions have been a source of tension for decades, has made advances in missile technology in recent years but Trump has sworn not to allow it to develop nuclear missiles that could hit the United States.
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He wants North Korea to "denuclearize," meaning to get rid of its nuclear arms, in return for relief from economic sanctions but the leadership in Pyongyang is believed to regard nuclear weapons as crucial to its survival and has rejected unilaterally disarming.
"I look forward to the day when I can take the sanctions off of North Korea," Trump said.
The U.S.-North Korea discourse has been fraught with tense threats and insults ever since Trump took office. In recent months, following talks of reconciliation between North and South Korea, discreet channels of dialogue opened up between the Trump administration and Pyongyang. These eventually led to the declaration of the Trump-Kim summit on June 12 in Singapore.
Trump canceled the historic meeting on May 24, citing the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in statements coming from North Korea. Choe Son Hui, a North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs, was quoted that day by the North’s state-run news agency as calling Vice President Mike Pence “ignorant” and “stupid.”
The following Saturday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Kim at the border for the second time in a month to discuss how to keep Kim’s summit with Trump on a track.