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View more articles by Colin Zwirko
Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he looks forward to a second U.S.-DPRK summit and suggested he believes improved relations will help spur the North’s economic development, in a tweet responding to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year Address delivered in the day.
Referring to a news story reported on Kim’s stated willingness to meet Trump “anytime,” the President responded by saying: “I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!”
During his New Year Address, Kim said he was “ready to meet the U.S. president again anytime, and will make efforts to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community.”
The U.S. President’s comments are the first official response from Washington to that speech, with an unnamed State Department official having earlier in the day declined to comment on the address when asked by Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency.
Trump also quoted in his tweet other summarized elements of the speech focusing on Kim’s comments on the country’s nuclear program.
The DPRK leader on Tuesday said his country had “declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures.”
While the inclusion of the word “make” in regards to the country’s nuclear weapons does constitute a new public stance, Kim characterized the action as part of “prior efforts” stemming from his June 12 summit with Trump in Singapore.
In a speech in April widely considered a turning point marking North Korea’s new strategic line focusing solely on the economy instead of dual nuclear and economic development, Kim had only said the DPRK would never “use” or “transfer” nuclear weapons or technology.
The other element of Trump’s response to Kim Tuesday was his linking of a second summit with the North’s economy, with the President saying the DPRK leader “realizes… that North Korea possesses great economic potential!”
Kim, on the other hand, has yet to publicly connect improved ties with the U.S. with his country’s economic development, aside from the tacit admission of the negative effects of U.S.-led sanctions in his demands they be lifted.
“If the United States… attempts to unilaterally enforce something upon us and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic, we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country,” Kim said in the address.
With both Kim’s explicit wish to meet the U.S. President and Trump’s reiteration of his willingness to hold a second summit – in addition to stalled talks at the level of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – it now appears both sides view the next Trump-Kim meeting as the next stage in negotiations.
Pompeo previously said on December 20 that he expects the next summit to be “another substantial step along the way towards creating a reduced threat to the United States from North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal.”
Those comments came shortly after a commentary published by North Korean state media criticizing U.S. understanding of concessions sequencing in negotiations, saying that “completely removing the nuclear threats of the U.S. to the DPRK” was a more accurate reflection of their understanding of the goal of “denuclearization.”
The commentary was released as U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun visited Seoul for a series of meetings with South Korean counterparts to coordinate over Washington’s stalled direct talks with the North.
Details regarding the date and location of the next summit have yet to be released, and Trump did not allude to either in his tweet Tuesday evening.
Last month, however, Pompeo said he hoped it would take place “not too long after the first of the year.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: White House