Asked when the two leaders will hold their summit, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on TV that the administration is “working out the details,” without further elaboration.
|US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Yonhap)|
His remark is being taken as a positive sign for an imminent summit, as Trump said negotiations were underway on the location, and Kim said he would meet his US counterpart again “at any time,” earlier this month.
Vietnam, which has diplomatic relations with both Pyongyang and Washington, is reported to have emerged as a strong candidate for the venue of the Kim-Trump meeting. The Southeast Asian country’s relative proximity to North Korea and its symbolic significance as a communist country that has undergone economic reforms and social changes bolster its chances of hosting the meeting.
Prior to the summit, senior North Korean official Kim Yong-chol is expected to meet with Pompeo for high-level talks as early as this week. Their meeting was initially planned for November last year, but was abruptly canceled at the request of North Korea.
“The high-level meeting to discuss practical and procedural issues seems to be just around the corner,” Handong University professor Park Won-gon said.
A possible scenario Pyongyang could bring to the table is a nuclear freeze alongside demolition of a new nuclear complex and intercontinental ballistic missile, while the US could offer to open a liaison office and halt US-South Korean military drills as corresponding measures, he said.
During their historic summit in Singapore in June, Kim and Trump called for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but provided neither a timeline nor details as to how North Korea would go about giving up its weapons.
The discussion between the two over the North’s nuclear arsenal has stalled since the Singapore summit, with the US insisting that sanctions should remain in place until it gives up its weapons and the North demanding the immediate lifting of sanctions.
North Korea conducted a string of ballistic missile launches and a nuclear test in 2017, but 2018 saw no such activities.
While reaffirming his commitment to complete denuclearization, the North Korean leader warned in his New Year’s address that he may have “no option but to explore a new path in order to protect our sovereignty,” if the US “miscalculates our people’s patience, forces something upon us and pursues sanctions and pressure without keeping a promise it made in front of the world.”
After the announcement, Kim went on a four-day trip to Beijing, where he gained support from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who called on North Korea and the United States to “meet each other halfway,” indicating that he wants Washington to consider lifting sanctions on Pyongyang in exchange of the North’s dismantling of its nuclear facilities.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org)