US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he had no strict timeline for North Korea’s ultimate denuclearization as negotiators from the two countries head to Vietnam for last-minute talks ahead of a second summit next week.
“I’m in no rush. There’s no testing. As long as there is no testing, I’m in no rush,” Trump told reporters at the White House after a phone conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“I’d just like to see, ultimately, denuclearization of North Korea,” he said.
The US president made similar remarks last week, in an apparent move to reduce the pressure of public expectations for his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi on Feb. 27-28.
“I have no pressing time schedule,” he said at that time. “I think a lot of people would like to see it go very quickly from the other side,” he said.
In June the two leaders held a historic meeting, but the resulting agreement was criticized as lacking in specifics about the path toward denuclearization.
While calling North Korea’s decision to halt nuclear and missile testing a sign of good faith, sanctions against Pyongyang will remain in place, he said.
“I really believe that North Korea can be a tremendous economic power when this is solved,” he said.
In response to North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests in 2017, additional sanctions were imposed on the already cash-strapped country.
Meanwhile, working-level negotiators from the US and North Korea headed to Hanoi to nail down details of what will be discussed at the high-profile summit.
Kim Hyok-chol, special representative for US affairs at the North’s State Affairs Commission, is expected to meet his counterpart, US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, on Thursday to continue their preparations. The two envoys met in North Korea from Feb. 6-8.
Biegun said after his North Korea visit that his talks were “productive” but there was still “hard work to do” before the summit.
Experts expect that North Korea will offer to verifiably dismantle the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, its core nuclear facility, in exchange for reciprocal measures from Washington, such as a declaration formally ending the Korean War and the establishment of a liaison office in Pyongyang, among others.