President Trump on Saturday suggested North Korea had reached out to the White House for talks – marking the first time the rogue regime has proposed negotiations.
“They, by the way, called up a couple of days ago, they said, ‘we would like to talk,’” Trump said during a press dinner. “And I said, ‘so would we, but you have to de-nuke.’”
It is unclear whether Trump was referring to an actual phone call, or to communications occurring via diplomatic channels.
Either way, the comment could be a sign of progress.
â€¨Trump also said he would not “rule out direct talks with Kim Jong-un.” As to dealing with a “madman,” joked Trump, “that’s his problem, not mine.” Trump and Kim have never spoken face-to-face.
During the dinner, Trump also claimed the US “saved the Olympics” by pressuring North Korea into attending the event. “That’s true, whether people want to hear it. And they had a very successful Olympics. That was heading for disaster.”
North Korean officials were supposed to meet with Vice President Mike Pence last month during the Games, but they backed out at the last minute. Officials suggested last weekend they are ready to talk with Washington, but would accept no preconditions for starting the talks.
The Trump Administration has repeatedly insisted that any talks will have the goal of denuclearization. North Korea insists denuclearization is not an option and has demanded Washington recognize it as a nuclear power.
“The dialogue we desire is the one designed to discuss and resolve the issues of mutual concern on an equal footing between states. There had been no case at all where we sat with the US on any precondition, and this will be the case in the future too,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).n“We have intentions to resolve issues in a diplomatic and peaceful way through dialogue and negotiation, but we will neither beg for dialogue nor evade the military option claimed by the US. We have full capability and will to confront any option favored by the US.”
As US officials were forced to acknowledge last year, North Korea has shown that it does possess ICBMs. The capability of these weapons remains disputed.
KCNA also warned the US that Pyongyang would “counter” if joint-military exercises with South Korea are allowed to go forward. The drills are scheduled to begin next month.
In the meantime, South Korea has announced it will be sending a small delegation of officials to North Korea for a two-day meeting starting on Monday. The main purpose of the visit is to ease tensions between the two nations, but it is possible the delegation will arrange future talks between North Korea and the US.
The delegation will coordinate with officials in the US, Japan, and China after its visit to North Korea.
Editor’s note: The preliminary negotiations continue. The pressure is on, this may indeed lead to something.