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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
U.S. President Donald Trump said a recently canceled summit with Kim Jong Un would go ahead in Singapore on June 12 as originally scheduled, after a landmark meeting with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol at the White House on Friday.
Kim Yong Chol, who 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, is the highest ranking DPRK official to have visited Washington, D.C. since the year 2000.
“We’re meeting with the Chairman on June 12th, and I think it’s going to be a very successful – ultimately successful process, we’ll see,” Trump told members of the press just after 1600 EST.
The remarks came after Kim delivered a personal letter from DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to President Trump earlier in the day, though it’s unclear what it contained.
“Really this was a letter presentation that ended up being a two-hour conversation,” he said. “And that letter was a very nice letter.”
“Oh would you like to see what was in that letter… It was a very interesting letter and at some point … you may be able to see it, and may be very soon.”
But minutes later, Trump admitted he had not yet read its contents, saying: “I purposely didn’t open the letter… He said you can read it later.”
“I may be in for a big surprise folks!”
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 1, 2018
Speaking on the day’s meetings, Trump confirmed the two discussed denuclearization and sanctions but notably suggested human rights had not been mentioned.
On sanctions, Trump said he “had hundreds of new sanctions ready to go on,” but that he would not “put them on until such time as the talks break down.”
“Why would I do that when we’re talking so nicely?”
When asked about the current state of talks over denuclearization and his reading of the North’s sincerity, Trump said, “Well I think they want to do that, I know they want to do that.”
But asked about Kim’s view on the complete, verifiable, irreversible, dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear program, Trump said he “did not want to say.”
“We talked about a lot of things, but the big deal will be on June 12th.”
Trump added that he didn’t want to talk about “maximum pressure anymore… because we’re getting along,” saying that North Korea wants to “develop as a country…(which is)…going to happen, I have no doubt”.
South Korea, Japan, and China could contribute economically on this matter, he said, meaning the United States would not need to bear much of the burden as a result.
Asked if he and Kim Yong Chol discussed human rights, Trump responded: “I think we probably will (in Singapore), maybe in great detail, (but) we did not talk about human rights.”
Trump’s historic meeting came just a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pyongyang, sparking concern among some that the meeting may upset Trump due to its timing.
But the President sought to play down those fears, saying, “I didn’t like it, but it could be very positive too… If it’s a positive meeting, I love it. If it’s a negative meeting, I’m not happy.”
While Trump clarified multiple times that the recently canceled summit would still take place on June 12 in Singapore, he did not, however, provide further details regarding its exact location in the city-state.
He also repeated that negotiations with Pyongyang may take a series of meetings to produce tangible results.
“I never said it goes in one meeting, I think it’s going to be a process. But the relationships are building, and that’s a very positive thing.”
“We’re talking about years of hostility, years of problems, years of, really, hatred between so many different nations. But I think you’re going to have a very positive result in the end – not from one meeting,” Trump said.
“We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12th and we never will.”
Asked if the summit may produce a formal end to the Korean War, he said that “could happen.”
“We talked about ending the war… that’s more of a signing of a document that is very important in one way, historically is very important, we did discuss that.”
Friday’s meeting in Washington follows two days of talks between Kim Yong Chol and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Kim arrived in New York on Wednesday afternoon, holding a preliminary dinner with Pompeo ahead of a full day of talks between the two on Thursday.
Following a day of talks, Pompeo said on Thursday that “real progress” had been made between the two sides in laying the groundwork for a previously-canceled summit on June 12 in Singapore between Trump and Kim.
He also said that he had engaged in some “difficult conversations” with DPRK officials and that they have “given it right back” to him as well.
The meeting comes amid ongoing talks between U.S. and North Korean officials in both Singapore and the DPRK in preparation for the June 12 summit.
Oliver Hotham contributed reporting
Featured image: White House