For the first time, rogue North Korea has told the U.S. that the country is open to discussing denuclearization at a potential meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, according to a U.S. official on Sunday.
“U.S. and North Korean officials have held secret contacts recently in which Pyongyang directly confirmed its willingness to hold the unprecedented summit, the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity,” writes Reuters. “The communications, still at a preliminary stage, have involved State Department officials talking to North Korea apparently through its United Nations mission, and intelligence officers from both sides using a separate backchannel, the official said.”
Last month, while meeting in Washington, South Korean envoys said North Korea is open to meeting with the U.S. But this week, the confirmation came directly from Pyongyang.
“The confirmation from Pyongyang directly, rather than from third countries like South Korea, has created more confidence within Trump’s administration about the wisdom of holding such a meeting, as U.S. officials make secretive preparations,” writes The Associated Press.
Since taking office, Trump has made his stance on North Korea explicitly clear. Kim and President Donald Trump have had a series of threatening exchanges.
The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said “our policy hasn’t changed at all,” meaning the U.S. will still be taking a strict stance on North Korea even though the relations between U.S.-ally South Korea and the Communist country has improved significantly over the last few months.
It appears as though the Trump Administration is doing just that. “We imposed today the heaviest sanctions ever imposed on a country before,” said Trump in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February.
But these sanctions may have inspired North Korea to come to the negotiating table. Trump quickly agreed to meet with Kim to specifically discuss denuclearization, according to multiple U.S. officials.
“The U.S. has confirmed that Kim Jong Un is willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” said a second U.S. official.
Although this is a step in the right direction, it’s unclear what North Korea would define as “denuclearization” and what the U.S. would have to agree to in order to get the country to denuclearize.
North Korea has invested significantly into building its nuclear arsenal, but has said in the past that they would consider halting the program if the U.S. pulled its troops from South Korea.
South Korea supports the potential meeting between the two leaders
“We are aware contact between North Korea and the United States is going well,” said an official in the office of South Korea’s presidential Blue House on the condition of anonymity. “We don’t know, however, up to what extent information is being shared between the two.”
Both U.S. and North Korean officials are hoping to set up a summit between both Trump and Kim by the end of next month.
Author’s note: Agreeing to a meeting is a huge step, even if it doesn’t happen anytime soon. However, North Korea will likely ask for a lot of concessions in exchange for denuclearization. But North Korea has to play nice if they ever want to open themselves up for trade and cooperation with South Korea, which has a GDP of roughly $1.19 Trillion versus North Korea’s $33 billion.