North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he will give the U.S. until the end of the year to make a “courageous decision” on stalled nuclear talks, warning of “very bleak and very dangerous” consequences if Washington does not change its approach.
Speaking to a session of North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, Kim also said he is open to meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump “one more time,” but only if the U.S. changes its attitude, according to North Korean state media.
President Trump responded Saturday morning via Twitter.
“I agree with Kim Jong Un of North Korea that our personal relationship remains very good, perhaps the term excellent would be even more accurate, and that a third Summit would be good in that we fully understand where we each stand. North Korea has tremendous potential for extraordinary growth, economic success and riches under the leadership of Chairman Kim. I look forward to the day, which could be soon, when Nuclear Weapons and Sanctions can be removed, and then watching North Korea become one of the most successful nations of the World!”
Trump this week said he is considering another meeting with Kim, but insisted the U.S. will not relax sanctions until North Korea gives up its nuclear arsenal.
The talks have been stalled since a February Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi ended in no deal. North Korean officials have since threatened to pull out of the talks and restart nuclear and missile tests.
Kim said his relationship with Trump remains “excellent.” But he said the failure of the Hanoi summit raised doubts about talks with the U.S. and whether Washington is really interested in improving relations.
The U.S. “was not ready to sit face to face and solve problems,” Kim said, adding that he does not “desire to see another Hanoi summit.”
“It seems like a positive message from the standpoint of possibly resuming the talks,” said Dong-Yub Kim, a North Korea specialist at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies. “But it is difficult to get a good opportunity like in Hanoi.”
Kim’s statement doesn’t necessarily move the talks forward, but it does suggest he remains invested in the diplomatic process, says Mintaro Oba, a former State Department diplomat who focuses on Korea.
“He recognizes the benefits of continuing diplomatic action, especially for potential sanctions relief, but wants to put the burden of the action on the United States,” Oba says.
South Korea’s government cautiously welcomed Kim’s statement.
“Our government will do what we can in order to maintain the current momentum for dialogue and help negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea resume at an early date,” said an official at Seoul’s presidential Blue House.
A small deal?
Speaking alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump on Thursday expressed openness to “smaller deals” with the North. But Trump said he is still looking for a wide-ranging agreement under which North Korea commits to completely dismantling its nuclear weapons.
At their first summit last year in Singapore, Trump and Kim signed a vague statement to work toward the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” However, U.S. officials have since conceded the two sides do not agree on what that phrase means.
North Korean officials have traditionally insisted that denuclearization means the U.S. reducing or eliminating its security commitment to South Korea, including removing nuclear-capable assets from the region.
The U.S. insists North Korea must unilaterally give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which violate United Nations resolutions.
North Korea has spent decades building up its nuclear program, which it views as a deterrent against the U.S.