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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday said he would “welcome” the establishing of U.S.-DPRK liaison offices in the two countries’ respective capitals.
In comments made during an expanded meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim was asked by a reporter whether he would support the setting up of diplomatic offices.
While initially reluctant to answer — even asking Trump to have the press leave the room — Kim then said: “I think it is something that could be welcome.”
Asked to elaborate, the DPRK leader said he and Trump needed “more time to discuss the issue.”
“Every minute is precious to us.”
President Trump, in turn, said he thought the proposal was a “great thing.”
The establishment of liaison offices in Washington and Pyongyang has for weeks been raised as a potential outcome of the two leaders’ summit.
North Korea and the U.S. previously agreed to the setting-up of liaison offices in their Agreed Framework signed in October 1994, though did not ultimately follow through with that part of the deal.
The two Koreas in September last year, however, opened such an office at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), as part of an agreed commitment to “ensure close consultation between the authorities and to satisfactorily facilitate civil exchanges and cooperation.”
One expert said the context of Kim Jong Un’s comments on Thursday was “key” and warned against reading what he said as a statement of policy.
“These are spontaneous responses, culturally conditioned, and polite,” Chris Green, a North Korea analyst at the International Crisis Group, told NK News. “Frankly, they may not turn out to have any long-run value.”
“When it was suggested last year that Kim might visit Seoul, he said tentatively that it would be nice to have a meeting in the South Korean capital, and he may even have meant it,” he said.
Kim and Trump met this morning at 0855 for the second day of their second summit, with talks expected to conclude with the unveiling of a joint statement at 1405.
Kim and Trump began the day with a private one-on-one meeting, before being joined by top officials for an expanded bilateral round of talks at 0945.
The DPRK leader was accompanied by vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Yong Chol and foreign minister Ri Yong Ho — both of whom also attended Wednesday night’s social dinner.
On the U.S. side, the President was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, as well as Assistant to the President and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea policy Stephen Biegun and senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council Matt Pottinger were also seated behind the President, according to the White House press corps pool.
Speaking to press during that meeting, Trump said he believed meetings today were “all leading toward a very big success.”
“I really believe that with this great leadership, I really believe that North Korea is going to be very successful, and economically it’s going to be something very very special,” he added.
When Kim Jong Un was asked by a journalist if he was discussing the issue of human rights with the U.S. President, Trump intervened to say “we’re discussing everything.”
But the DPRK leader did answer a question on whether he planned to take “specific measures” to achieve denuclearization.
“We are currently discussing the issue,” he responded, noting that press were “very curious” about the nuclear issue.
When a reporter asked if Kim intended to denuclearize, the DPRK leader said: “I would not have come here if I didn’t have that determination.”
The U.S. President also avoided a question about whether the two sides would seek to use this week’s summit to issue of formal end-of-war declaration, saying in response that “we’ll see where it all goes.”
“We’ve had very very productive discussions. The relationship is as good as it’s ever been, I think better.”
North Korea and U.S. will now convene for a working lunch, with a joint statement expected to be unveiled in a ceremony at 1405 Hanoi time.
Featured image: Pyeongyang Press Corps