Updated 1558 KST to include Trump’s reaction to Choe’s statement, as delivered from a press conference in Osaka
North Korean first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui on Saturday afternoon released a statement calling U.S. President Donald Trump’s public suggestion of a meeting with Kim Jong Un at the border “interesting.”
In the statement released through Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Choe said such a meeting would be “meaningful,” but also appeared to call attention to the public, unofficial nature of Trump’s suggestion.
“This morning, President Trump of the United States of America stated his position through Twitter that he wishes to meet and exchange greetings with Comrade Chairman of the State Affairs Commission in the Demilitarized Zone when he visits south Korea from June 29 to 30,” the statement read.
Choe said in the statement, released just hours after Trump’s tweet, that “we see it as a very interesting suggestion, but we have not received an official proposal in this regard.”
She did not say whether or not Kim Jong Un agreed to the meeting.
President Trump tweeted the invitation early Saturday morning from Osaka, where he is attending the G20 summit.
Referring to his visit to South Korea on Saturday and Sunday, he said that “if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”
Trump signaled the unplanned nature of his invitation by saying Saturday morning at the G20 that he “just put out a feeler, because I don’t know where he is right now; he may not be in North Korea.”
“But I said, if Chairman Kim would want to meet, I’ll be at the border.”
While the top North Korean diplomat Choe in her statement did not provide an answer as to whether Kim would travel to the DMZ to meet Trump, she also spoke positively of the idea and did not rule it out.
“I am of the view that if the DPRK-U.S. summit meetings take place on the division line, as is intended by President Trump, it would serve as another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations,” the statement said.
Regarding the nature of the potential meeting on Sunday, Trump said from the G20 that “if (Kim Jong Un is) there, we’ll see each other for two minutes. That’s all we can. But that will be fine.”
He clarified, however, that he is “in no rush whatsoever,” framing it again as an impromptu request.
“But I was in South — I will be in South Korea. I let him know, and we’ll see.”
Choe’s statement follows a number of criticisms of the U.S. from the foreign ministry this week, though the focus appeared to remain on officials under Trump while signaling that a third summit would be the best chance for success in negotiations at present.
President Trump, speaking at a press conference at around 1550 in Osaka, said regarding the first vice foreign minister’s statement that the North Koreans “did respond very favorably.”
“I understand that we may be meeting with Chairman Kim and we’ll find out, spoke with people, Kim Jong Un was very receptive, he responded, and so we’ll see,” Trump said.
“We won’t call it a summit, we’ll call it a handshake, if it does happen.”
When asked by a reporter if he would step across the military demarcation line (MDL) into North Korea with Kim if possible, he said, “sure, I would feel very comfortable doing that, I would have no problem.”
Trump also appeared to say officials from North Korea contacted the U.S. side directly on Saturday.
“We got a call very quickly … They’ve contacted us, said they’d like to see if they could do some- and we’re not talking extended, just a quick ‘hello,'” the President said.
Regarding the possibility that Kim Jong Un does not show up for the meeting, Trump said he “understood” it could happen.
“I thought of that, because I know if he didn’t [show up], everybody’s gonna say, ‘Oh, he was stood up by Chairman Kim.’”
Trump will travel to South Korea Saturday evening, where he will attend a dinner banquet hosted by President Moon Jae-in.
Featured image: U.S. State Department