US President Donald Trump confirmed Sunday talks for the location of a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are underway, after the two said last week they are ready to meet to further discuss Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
“We’re negotiating a location. It will be announced probably in the not-too-distant future,” Trump told reporters before boarding a helicopter for a presidential retreat to Camp David, Maryland.
On Dec. 1, Trump briefly commented on the venue and timing of the US-North Korea summit, saying it would be held in either January or February, with three sites under consideration.
Vietnam, Indonesia, Hawaii, Mongolia and the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas are reportedly among possible sites for the summit.
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the matter, saying it is a matter between the North and the US.
Amid rising expectations that the next summit is imminent, Trump made it clear that North Korea’s actions toward denuclearization should come before the lifting of international sanctions.
“The sanctions remain in full force, in effect. And they will until we have some very positive proof,” Trump said Sunday.
High-level talks between the two countries were abruptly canceled in November last year at the request of North Korea, while progress on denuclearization talks has stalled since the two leaders’ first historic meeting in Singapore in June.
However, Kim’s latest moves have shown his willingness to continue dialogue with his US counterpart. On Wednesday, Trump said he received “a great letter” from Kim, though he did not reveal the content.
In his New Year’s speech, the North Korean leader said he was ready to meet with Trump at any time to produce an outcome welcomed by the international community.
However, he said the North would be forced to take a different path if the US “continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people by unilaterally demanding certain things, and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure.”
North Korea claims that it has already taken steps for sanctions relief like dismantling its nuclear testing facility and releasing American detainees. It didn‘t carry out any missile or nuclear tests in 2018.
Trump’s comments Sunday seem to be a call for North Korea to return to a fresh round of high-level talks, said Shin Bum-cheol, a senior fellow at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
“I think the US still wants to hold high-level negotiations to discuss inspections and verification for the North’s nuclear and missile facilities before a second summit,” he said.
North Korea wishes to deal directly with Trump, skipping lower-level meetings so that it can reach a deal that “freezes” rather than eliminates its nuclear weapons, Shin added.
“It’s like Trump says, ‘I will make concessions to your demand but you have to come to the negotiation table for the details of how you’re going to dismantle nuclear weapons.’”