North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol met with President Donald Trump on Friday as the two sides worked to resume stalled efforts to end the North's nuclear weapons program by arranging a second summit with leader Kim Jong Un.
"President Donald J. Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and a half to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The President looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Kim Yong Chol held talks earlier with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In a statement, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he welcomed the planned meeting between Trump and Kim, adding that it could be a "turning point" for achieving lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
'We fell in love'
Trump has exchanged multiple letters with Kim Jong Un despite little tangible progress on a vague denuclearization agreement reached at their historic first meeting in June 2018. He has also spoken several times of having a second summit early this year.
In September, Trump called the letters from Kim "beautiful" and said, "We fell in love." However, since that time, several private analysts have published reports detailing North Korea's continuing development of nuclear and missile technology.
A meeting between Pompeo and Kim Yong Chol scheduled for last November in New York was called off abruptly. US officials said at the time that North Korea had canceled the session. South Korean media have reported that Kim Yong Chol delivered another letter from Kim Jong Un to the US president on Friday.
North Korea's refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle its weapons program was the reason that talks had stalled.
The North has demanded that the US put an end to tough economic penalties and provide security guarantees before taking any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday the Trump-Kim Jong Un dialogue was "promising" but "we still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region."
Kim Jong Un had expressed frustration in an annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations. However, on a recent visit to Beijing, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit "to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community," according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.
Independent analysts are highly skeptical that North Korea will readily abandon a nuclear arsenal constructed in the face of deep poverty and seen by Kim as his only guarantee of his government's survival.
av/sms (Reuters, AFP)
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