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View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
The U.S. will talk to North Korea but only under the right conditions, U.S. President Donald Trump told a gathering of state governors at the White House on Monday.
The comments are Trump’s first since Kim Yong Chol – a senior North Korean official – reportedly communicated Pyongyang’s willingness to hold talks with Washington. Kim serves as vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and director of the United Front Department of the WPK Central Committee.
“As of last night, you heard that they (North Korea) want to talk and we want to talk also, only under the right conditions, otherwise, we are not talking,” he said.
According to the South Korean Blue House on Sunday, Kim Yong Chol expressed a possible willingness on the part of North Korea to speak with Washington during an inter-Korean meeting with ROK President Moon Jae-in.
“The North Korean delegation said they have enough willingness to hold North-U.S. dialogue and shared the view that the South-North relations should be developed alongside the North-U.S. relations,” Blue House Spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said while Kim Yong Chol reportedly reiterated this position again on Monday.
Trump’s comments seem to pour cold water on earlier on remarks from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who told the Washington Post on February 11 that the U.S. was open to talks with the DPRK without pre-conditions.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also told the press on Monday that denuclearization would be a deciding factor in approaching any talks with the DPRK.
“They have expressed a desire to hold talks. But let us be completely clear: Denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea,” she said.
“Until then, the United States and the world must continue to make it known that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end,” she added.
Sanders further added that the DPRK would have to agree to denuclearize and that this “would be the primary factor in whether or not we would have any conversation with them.”
Following his comments regarding potential talks with the DPRK, Trump singled out former U.S. presidents for criticism over their handling of North Korea during their tenures.
“They have been talking for 25 years, other presidents should have solved this problem long before I got here and they’ve been talking for 25 years and you know what happened? Nothing,” he said.
Trump criticized both Bush administrations as well as those of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for their lack of action on North Korea.
The U.S. President also moderately praised China and President Xi Jinping for cooperating with the U.S. over DPRK sanctions.
“China has been good but they haven’t been great, China has really done more probably than they’ve ever done because of my relationship (with Xi), we have a very good relationship. But President Xi is for China and I am for the United States,” he said.