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Trump uninterested in meeting Kim Jong-un before November election: report

Feb. 11, 2020 - 15:16 By Ahn Sung-mi
US President Donald Trump and North Korea`s leader Kim Jong-un pose before a meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi on Feb 27. (AFP)

US President Donald Trump told his foreign-policy advisers that he does not want another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before the presidential election in November, CNN reported Monday, citing two sources.

Denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea have been deadlocked since the Trump-Kim summit collapsed in Hanoi, Vietnam, last February. With Trump’s focus on winning reelection this year, his interest in engaging North Korea appears to have “waned,” the US TV channel said.

Another Trump official described the negotiations as “dead,” adding that the US government stopped issuing “special circumstances” permits for travel to North Korea.

In what appears to be another sign of lost interest, Trump did not mention North Korea during his third State of the Union address last week. In all his past annual speeches, the US president had touched upon the North Korea issue.

“We will keep monitoring the situation,” a Unification Ministry official said in response to the report, adding that the government was not in a position to evaluate the matter.

There have been highs and lows since the landmark summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore in 2018, when the pair agreed to work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. After their first meeting, their highly anticipated second summit in Hanoi abruptly fell apart, as they failed to narrow their differences over the extent of sanctions relief that should be provided in exchange for steps toward denuclearization.

The two leaders met again in June last year on the North Korean side of the DMZ separating the two Koreas, and promised to kick-start working-level meetings to continue the denuclearization talks.

But a working-level meeting in Sweden in October last year broke off. At the time, Trump expressed his frustration, according to CNN, as US negotiators believed they were making progress, while North Koreans claimed the meeting collapsed because the US had come “empty handed.”

Despite such headline-grabbing encounters, there was not much progress, with North Korea threatening to introduce a “new strategic weapon” early this year. 

Meanwhile, Pyongyang has not completely closed the door to talks with the US, but it insists on Washington moving first with sanctions relief.

Despite Trump’s lack of interest, other officials have continued to call for talks with Pyongyang.

“My hope is that North Korea will come back to the table,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien was quoted as saying at an event in Washington. He also denied any connection between the US political calendar and Trump’s policy on North Korea.

Stephen Biegun, US deputy secretary of state and top negotiator on North Korea, is also “constantly trying to reignite talks,” according to the report.

Alex Wong, US deputy assistant secretary of state for North Korea, held a working group meeting Monday in Seoul with his South Korean counterpart, Rhee Dong-yeol, director general of the Korean Peninsula Peace Regime Bureau, to discuss various issues regarding North Korea, including inter-Korean relations, US-North Korea talks and nuclear issues. On Tuesday, Wong met with Lee Moon-hee, director general at the Foreign Ministry’s North Korean Nuclear Affairs department, as well as Choi Young-joon, head of the Unification Ministry’s unification police office. During the discussion with Choi, the US and South Korea decided to work together closely to bring about denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

By Ahn Sung-mi (