North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lauded U.S. President Donald Trump and said he expects nuclear negotiations to advance “step-by-step,” state media said, a sign the regime anticipates sanctions relief as the two leaders plan a second meeting next month.
Kim made the remarks Wednesday during a meeting with North Korean officials who visited the White House last week and met with Trump, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Kim praised the U.S. president’s “unusual determination and will for the settlement of the issue” and ordered “technical preparations” for the next meeting between the two leaders.
“Kim Jong Un said that we will believe in the positive way of thinking of President Trump, wait with patience and in good faith and, together with the U.S., advance step by step toward the goal to be reached by the two countries,” the report said. The statement was the first official confirmation that Kim had agreed to a second summit.
North Korea has long maintained that “step-by-step” negotiations — indicating a phased approach in which each side gives up a little at a time — were the only way to advance talks between the two sides. The Trump administration, however, has balked at Kim’s demands for sanctions relief, vowing to maintain pressure until Kim commits to “final, fully verified denuclearization.”
Trump’s agreement to hold a second meeting with Kim had already been seen as an indication that the U.S. was softening its position, after the North Korean leader threatened to walk away from talks if the American side didn’t ease off. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said last week that Seoul and Washington were discussing “corresponding measures” to reward Kim’s steps toward denuclearization.
Some seven months after Trump first shook hands with Kim in Singapore, North Korea has made no commitments to allow weapons inspections or dismantle its growing arsenal of warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The two sides are expected to meet in Vietnam, Bloomberg News reported Sunday, citing people familiar with the talks.
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