President Donald Trump said on Friday an unprecedented nuclear arms summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the United States pulled out of will now go ahead as scheduled on June 12 in Singapore, adding another twist to a high-stakes diplomatic dance.
Trump said he spoke with the North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, about sanctions on the reclusive regime.
Trump first told reporters the letter from Kim was "a very nice letter. a very interesting letter" but then said he had not opened it.
When Trump came out, he fielded questions from a gaggle of reporters, including if North Korea's total denuclearization was still on the table. Under Trump, the USA has led a "maximum pressure" campaign of military drills and strict sanctions against North Korea, which has so far refused to abandon the nuclear weapons it believes are necessary to protect it from a US invasion.
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"The relationships are building and that's very positive", he said.
U.S. officials with knowledge of the letter's contents said it did not make any noteworthy threats or concessions, and was seen as a positive step, according to multiple news reports. "We did discuss that", Trump said. Other analysts believe the video is purely for domestic use as a motivational tool for officials to work harder to improve the wellbeing of the North Korean people.
After the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, Trump walked Kim out of the White House.
Later Friday, deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley confirmed that Trump had read the letter, but he did not reveal its contents. A letter being delivered to me from Kim Jong Un.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Louisville warned Trump to be dispassionate about North Korea. By the next day, he was signaling the event could be back on after a conciliatory response from North Korea.
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Kim Yong Chol left his hotel in New York City early Friday for the trip to Washington in a convoy of SUVs. Despite Kim's apparent eagerness for a summit with Trump, there are many doubts that he would fully relinquish his nuclear arsenal, which he may see as his guarantee of survival. Pompeo, the former Central Intelligence Agency chief who has traveled to North Korea and met with Kim Jong Un twice in the past two months, said he believed the country's leaders are "contemplating a path forward where they can make a strategic shift, one that their country has not been prepared to make before".
Kim's arrival in Washington - in a small caravan of SUV's from NY - came a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that he was confident negotiations with Pyongyang were "moving in the right direction".
Despite the upbeat messaging in the United States, Kim Jong Un, in a meeting with Russia's foreign minister on Thursday, complained about the USA trying to spread its influence in the region, a comment that may complicate the summit plans.
"I purposely didn't open the letter".
Kim Jong Un, however, has indicated he may indeed be willing to end his nuclear program and has already demolished his only known nuclear testing site last week as a gesture that he sought peace with the U.S. That same day, however, Trump canceled the talks after North Korea issued a fiery statement criticizing Vice President Mike Pence for threatening Kim Jong Un's life.
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Kim Yong Chol is the most senior North Korean visitor to the United States since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok visited Washington in 2000 to meet President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.