North Korea’s foreign minister issued a statement on Saturday about U.S. President Donald Trump’s “interesting” Twitter proposal to meet dictator Kim Jong-un at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) when he visits this weekend, but he confirmed that Pyongyang has yet to receive an official invitation.
Trump left Osaka, Japan, on Friday following the conclusion of the G20 summit held there and made his way to South Korea for a scheduled state visit. On Friday evening American time, Trump confirmed rumors that had been circulating in South Korean media all week that Trump would visit the DMZ – the heavily armed border between North and South Korea – and that he was trying to schedule a meeting with Kim Jong-un:
After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2019
First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui responded positively but indicated that, without an official invitation, Pyongyang could not move to accept the proposal.
Choe’s statement read:
I am of the view that if the DPRK [North Korea]-U.S. summit meetings take place on the division line, as is intended by President Trump, it would serve as another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations.
“We see it as a very interesting suggestion, but we have not received an official proposal in this regard,” the statement added, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. The statement has not at press time appeared at the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) website in English.
In a press conference at Seoul’s presidential palace, the Blue House, Trump confirmed that his team was in communication with North Korean diplomats, but he did not elaborate on how the process of planning a meeting was going.
Rumors that Washington was attempting to plan an impromptu Trump-Kim summit were circulating in South Korean media all week. Trump and Kim had not met in person since February, when their scheduled summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, ended with Trump walking out abruptly and complaining that the North Koreans were demanding too many concessions without offering to end their illegal nuclear weapons program. North Korean officials disputed the claim and told reporters following the summit that they had offered to shut down the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, where the communist regime enriches most of its nuclear material. Subsequent reports revealed the North Koreans wanted Trump to recognize them as a nuclear power and to send Pyongyang “famous basketball players.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in confirmed to reporters in a question and answer session with several international outlets this week that planning for another summit between the two countries had begun.
“First and foremost, I want to highlight the fact that, even though there has been no official dialogue between North Korea and the United States since the Hanoi summit, their leaders’ willingness to engage in dialogue has never faded,” Moon said.
“Moreover, both sides have been engaged in dialogue in regard to a third summit. It’s noteworthy that the behind-the-scenes talks have been preceded by the mutual understanding of each other’s position gained through the Hanoi summit.”
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry responded to Moon’s remarks by confirming that Washington and Pyongyang were discussing a new summit but then scolding the South Koreans for giving the impression that they were mediating between the two sides.
“Even though we are to think of holding a dialogue with the U.S., we need first to see a proper approach towards the negotiation on the part of the U.S.,” a North Korean diplomat said in a statement, adding, “The South Korean authorities would better mind their own internal business.”
Trump and Kim had maintained communication despite the fallout from the Hanoi summit. Kim reportedly rekindled direct talks this month by sending Trump a personal letter congratulating him on his birthday. Trump called the letter “beautiful” and responded but did not divulge its contents. A week ago, North Korean state media published a photo of Kim reading Trump’s letter, describing it as containing “excellent content.”