There was still some hard work to be done ahead of an upcoming summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, a Washington envoy said yesterday, after three days of talks in Pyongyang.
US Special Representative to North Korea Stephen Biegun said that preparatory talks had been productive, but more dialogue was needed ahead of the summit scheduled for Vietnam on Feb. 27 and. 28.
Biegun briefed South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister Kang Kyung-wha on his Pyongyang visit, shortly after Trump revealed the summit would take place in Hanoi.
“We have some hard work to do with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] between now and then,” Biegun told Kang, adding: “I’m confident that if both sides stay committed we can make real progress here.”
Trump announced Hanoi as the location on Twitter, hailing as “very productive” the preparatory talks between diplomats from the two countries.
“I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!” he said.
Talks during Biegun’s three-day trip explored Trump and Kim’s “commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming US-DPRK relations and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the US Department of State said.
It also confirmed Biegun had agreed to meet his North Korean counterpart, Kim Hyok-chol, again before the summit.
North Korea has yet to provide any official confirmation of the summit and Kim Jong-un appeared to make no mention of it during a meeting earlier with the top brass of the Korean People’s Army.
As reported by state media, the meeting focused on the need to modernize the military while maintaining party discipline in the ranks.
Attention should now focus on whether the US team have offered to lift some economic sanctions in return for Pyongyang taking concrete steps toward denuclearization.
Discussions on declaring an end to the Korean War could also have been on the table, with Biegun last week saying that Trump was “ready to end this war.”
The three-year conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Experts say the most likely scenario in Vietnam is that the concerned parties — North and South Korea, the US and China — would declare a formal end to the war as a political statement.
At their summit in Singapore last year, the US and North Korean leaders produced a vaguely worded document in which Kim Jong-un pledged to work toward “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
However, progress has since stalled, with the two sides disagreeing over what that means.
Experts say tangible progress on Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons will be needed for the second summit if it is to avoid being dismissed as “reality TV.”
On Friday, Trump tweeted that North Korea would become a “great Economic Powerhouse” under Kim Jong-un.
“He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is,” Trump tweeted.
However, Park Won-gon, a professor at South Korea’s Handong University, said Trump’s remarks might not align with Pyongyang’s agenda.
“What Pyongyang wants now, more than anything, is the lifting of the existing sanctions,” Park said. “The idea of being an economic powerhouse may sound too vague and even unrealistic for them at this moment.”
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