The United States and North Korea are scheduled to begin discussing the details of denuclearization this week. According to President Donald Trump, he will handle some of these discussions directly with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un by telephone.
Chosun Ilbo on Monday quoted a “diplomatic source in Washington” who said the direct line President Trump alluded to in comments last week has been established and awaits only a “signal” from Pyongyang before Trump and Kim can begin talking directly:
“I’m going to be actually calling North Korea,” Trump told Fox News last Friday. He told reporters later, “I can now call him.”
At their summit in Singapore last week, Trump and Kim let White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kim’s younger sister, Yo-jong, into the summit room to exchange phone numbers.
The White House has finished preparations and the phone call can take place as soon as a signal comes from Pyongyang, a diplomatic source in Washington said.
“It’s huge progress that the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea now can check and confirm what they agreed in Singapore on the phone,” a senior Cheong Wa Dae official said.
Cheong Wa Dae is the Blue House, South Korea’s equivalent to the White House. The administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been highly supportive of President Trump’s diplomatic contact with Kim Jong-un.
The Moon administration is expected to join the United States this week in announcing the suspension of “large-scale military drills,” provided North Korea continues to make progress on denuclearization. The South Korean Defense Ministry on Sunday denied a report that it has asked the North Korean military to pull its artillery back from the Demilitarized Zone as a show of good faith and a commitment to reducing tensions on the peninsula.
The South Korean government also appears to be signaling a softer stance on easing sanctions against North Korea than the Trump administration. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha indicated on Monday that his government believes sanctions should be eased after “North Korea takes meaningful, substantive steps toward denuclearization,” while the U.S. government maintains sanctions should remain in place until full nuclear disarmament has been achieved.
President Trump suggested on Friday that he might hold his first telephone conversation with Kim Jong-un on Sunday, but the White House has not yet given any indication this phone call occurred.