President Trump issued a warm tweet to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ahead of an anticipated second meeting early this year.
“Kim Jong Un says North Korea will not make or test nuclear weapons, or give them to others – & he is ready to meet President Trump anytime,” he tweeted, citing a PBS News Hour newscast.
“I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!” he added.
“Kim Jong Un says North Korea will not make or test nuclear weapons, or give them to others – & he is ready to meet President Trump anytime.” PBS News Hour. I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2019
Kim, in his New Year’s address, said his country is refraining from producing nuclear weapons, which some experts interpret as a new peace overture to Trump.
“We have declared inside and outside our country that we will no longer make, test, use, or distribute nuclear weapons and have taken various practical measures,” Kim said, according to translated remarks.
Former U.S. intelligence analyst and Stimson Center fellow Robert Carlin told the Wall Street Journal that Kim’s declaration was the first of its kind from North Korea in a quarter century.
“I am confident that the U.S. will probe this and unpack what the North Koreans mean,” Carlin said. “It could provide an opening for progress.”
Jenny Town, managing editor and producer for 38 North, told PBS News Hour that Kim’s remarks are “building a narrative of denuclearization to the domestic North Korean population.
“Whether or not we believe him, he’s planting the seeds that this is possible and that this is the track that they’re going down,” she said.
Town said both leaders have a mutual respect for each other, and have built a personal relationship that has not yet translated to the rest of the government.
“This whole diplomatic process is not the way the U.S. does diplomacy, but it is the way Asia tends — is more comfortable doing diplomacy as well, this leader-driven, kind of piece by piece, small commitments at a time, to build this relationship and build a track record and build trust as you move towards a mutual goal,” she said.
Victor Cha, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told PBS News Hour that direct diplomacy between Trump and Kim had its benefits and risks.
“We’re ending up at a point now where we need a summit meeting to try to keep the diplomacy going. And the good part about that is, if you get the leaders to agree, then maybe you can make real progress,” he said.
“The bad part is that, if they cannot agree, then the diplomacy, by definition, fails. There’s nowhere else to go at that point, when your leaders can’t agree,” he said.
Trump and Kim met approximately six months ago in Singapore. Since then, North Korea has returned remains of U.S. service members who were killed in North Korea, stopped nuclear missile testing, shut down down the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, begun dismantling some key facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, and offered the option for inspections.
The U.S. has suspended large-scale military exercises with South Korea. However, Town said the U.S. then renewed a travel ban on U.S. citizens to North Korea, imposed more sanctions, have continued to talk about maximum pressure, and have essentially cut off humanitarian aid assistance to North Korea.
Kim also warned the U.S. in his remarks that if there was not more progress on the U.S. side, that North Korea may have to “seek another way.”
“However, if the United States continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure against our republic, then we may have to seek another way to protect our country’s sovereignty and interest and establish peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
Town said the U.S. and North Korea are approaching progress on denuclearization very differently.
The North Koreans want a different relationship with the U.S. before denuclearizing — such as through a peace treaty, but the U.S. wants North Korea to denuclearize before any such step.
“And I think we’re still butting heads against that, as to, how do we get to that point and how do we find a mutually agreed upon path to — in order to justify — having them justify go down that road?” she said.