President Donald Trump told Bloomberg News on Monday that he would be “honored” to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “under the right circumstances.”
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump said. “If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”
Most likely, the “right circumstances” would entail North Korea showing a willingness to halt or reverse its nuclear and ballistic missile programs that have elevated it to the single greatest security threat to the US.
“Most political people would never say that… but I’m telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him,” Trump said. “We have breaking news.”
However, Trump has been up front about his willingness to speak to Kim Jong Un for about a year, telling Reuters in May 2016 that “I would speak to him, I would have no problem speaking to him.”
Direct talks with the Kim regime would break with US foreign policy since 2000, when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke to Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father.
In 2009, the six party talks between China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the US fell apart because North Korea backed out when it came time to implement the verifiable and irreversible destruction of its nuclear capabilities.
The experience proved a searing moment for US diplomats and created lasting doubts about the North Koreans’ sincerity in diplomacy. Since then, North Korea has written its possession of nuclear weapons into its constitution as a guarantor of its security.
So while the US demands North Korea denuclearize, and North Korea clings to its weapons for security, Yun Sun, a senior associate at the Stimson Center, previously told Business Insider that the question since 2009 has been: “If we are going to talk to North Korea, what are we going to talk about?”
Experts have accessed that North Korea’s missile program has made troubling advances, and some calculate that the Kim regime may be able to target the US mainland with a nuclear missile in as little as three years.
The North Koreans fast-moving missile program may be adding urgency to finding a resolution for the burgeoning nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula.
Trump’s comments echo Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s earliercomments to NPR that the US would prefer to engage in the process of denuclearization with North Korea diplomatically though direct talks, as opposed to the military action Trump’s administration has repeatedly suggested.