February 25, 2019
By Mike Stone and Hyonhee Shin
WASHINGTON/HANOI (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has said he would be happy as long as North Korea maintains its pause on weapons testing, and he was in no rush to strike a nuclear deal with its leader, Kim Jong Un, when they hold their second summit this week.
The two leaders will meet in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday, eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
The two leaders pledged to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but their vague agreement has produced few results and U.S. Democratic senators and security officials have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
As Kim made his way across China by train for the summit, North Korean state media warned Trump on Sunday not to listen to U.S. critics who it said were disrupting efforts to improve ties.
Trump, speaking in Washington on the eve of his departure for Vietnam, said he believed he saw eye to eye with Kim and that they had developed “a very, very good relationship”.
“I’m not in a rush. I don’t want to rush anybody,” Trump said.
“I just don’t want testing. As long as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”
North Korea conducted its last nuclear test, its sixth, in September 2017. It last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.
The Trump administration has pressed the North to give up the nuclear weapons program, which combined with its missile capabilities, pose a threat to the United States, before it can expect any concessions.
But in recent days, Trump has signaled a possible softening, saying he would love to be able to remove sanctions if there is meaningful progress on denuclearization.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the two sides might agree to declare a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War at the summit.
The war ended in a truce, not a treaty, and the North has long called for a treaty to end it. It also wants security guarantees.
The United States has for years demanded North Korea’s complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, before any concessions could be granted.
North Korea denounced that stance as unilateral and “gangster like”.
Trump’s latest comments would appear to support speculation his administration is open to seeking a limited deal at the summit.
Officials in Washington and the South Korean capital, Seoul, have said discussions have included allowing inspectors to observe the dismantlement of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor and opening U.S.-North Korea liaison offices.
Declaring an end to a technical state of hostilities that has existed since the 1950s, and allowing some inter-Korean projects like opening a tourism zone in North Korea were other possibilities.
Few details of Kim’s trip to Vietnam had been announced until early on Sunday, when North Korean state media confirmed he had left Pyongyang by train, accompanied by senior officials as well as his influential sister, Kim Yo Jong.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Worker’s Party, said on Monday the entire nation received news of the leader’s long foreign trip with “countless excitement and thrill”.
“Our people wish the Dear Marshal will come back safely from a long foreign visit, following his trail in our minds day and night,” the newspaper said
Kim’s train passed through the central Chinese city of Wuhan at around 7 a.m. (2300 GMT on Sunday), Yonhap news agency reported on Monday.
That would put it on track to arrive in Vietnam by early Tuesday.
(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Lincoln Feast)