After the first Oval Office meeting with a top North Korean official since 2000, President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday that a June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un was back on in Singapore, though there was no indication that any agreements would be signed in that meeting.
“The process will begin on June 12 in Singapore,” the President told reporters, who met with Kim Yong Chol, the former head of North Korea’s intelligence service for more than an hour.
“We talked about almost everything, we talked about a lot,” the President told reporters, though he did not reveal what was in a letter from Kim Jong Un, which was delivered to Mr. Trump.
“It was a very nice letter,” the President said. “It was a very interesting letter,” though Mr. Trump later acknowledged that he had not opened or read the communication from Kim Jong Un.
“The big deal will be on June 12, again, it’s a process,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re not going to go sign something on June 12.”
Escorted by White House Chief of Staff John Kelley, Kim Yong Chol, arrived at the White House around 1:15 pm to meet with the President. They met for about an hour and 20 minutes.
The former head of the North Korean intelligence service, Kim had met earlier this week in New York with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told reporters that he felt things were ‘moving in the right direction’ on ways the U.S. and the Pyongyang regime could agree on a plan to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
While Mr. Trump did not detail much of the back and forth in the Oval Office, he did tell reporters that he made clear to North Korean officials that the U.S. stands ready to add in hundreds of economic sanctions against Pyongyang – but will hold off, as long as talks continue.
“It’s a process,” the President said several times, downplaying any thoughts that the U.S. and North Korea would sign a deal in Singapore to swiftly end the North’s nuclear weapons programs.
It was the first time a North Korean official had been to the White House in 18 years, when top defense official Jo Myong Rok met with President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office, on October 10, 2000.
In that meeting, the North Koreans delivered a letter from their leader Kim Jong Il; “The meetings proceeded in a serious, constructive, and businesslike atmosphere, allowing each side to gain a better understand of the other’s concerns,” the two countries said in a joint statement.
Back then, the issues were the same – as the Clinton Administration was pressing the North Koreans to rein in their nuclear program.
But in the end, there was no breakthrough.
Mr. Trump made clear there was no guarantee of any major agreements being made at the June 12 summit, though he did entertain the idea of officially ending the Korean War.
“Good meeting today – it’s a good start,” the President said.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers said the discussions were good, but still expressed the hope for concrete actions.
“There’s much work left to do, but this is one step closer to a better outcome on the Korean peninsula,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN).