U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said he’d be open to exploring a “new method” in talks with North Korea, reiterating his “good” relationship with Pyongyang.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to an under-construction border wall in California, Trump was asked about recent remarks by former National Security Advisor John Bolton claiming that talks with North Korea were “doomed to failure.”
“He may be — he may be right and he may be wrong,” the U.S. President said. “Let’s see what happens. Only time will tell.”
Touting recent successes with North Korea, including a DPRK moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing and the now-stalled return of the remains of U.S. war dead, Trump praised his “good” relationship with the country.
“I think John [Bolton] really should take a look at how badly they’ve done in the past and maybe a new method would be very good,” the U.S. President said.
He then appeared to suggest that a “powerful attack” on North Korea remained a possibility, though the comments may also have been a reference to Iran.
Trump’s references to a potential “new method” in talks with the DPRK, however, come amid what appears to be an more flexible position from the U.S. ahead of expected talks and hints that Washington may be increasingly willing to accept a so -called “small deal” with Pyongyang.
It also echoes Pyongyang’s own recent language, with DPRK officials in the past few weeks urging the U.S. to pursue a “new calculation” in negotiations.
North Korea’s vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui in a statement earlier in the month said Pyongyang was willing to return to denuclearization talks with the U.S. by the end of September.
The DPRK, she said, was willing to engage in “comprehensive discussions” with the U.S., while warning that if Washington offered no new “calculation… DPRK-U.S. dealings may come to an end.”
Another senior foreign ministry official — likely head of the Department of American Affairs Kwon Jong Kun — earlier this week also said the U.S. would need to bring an “alternative proposal” to the upcoming talks if they were to be successful.
“President Trump’s reference to a ‘new method’ echoes Pyongyang’s ‘new calculation’ formulation and indicates that he is willing to take a more flexible approach in denuclearization talks,” Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said.
This might even involve, Lee continued, “accepting the phase-by-phase approach that North Korea has consistently called for over the past year.”
“Trump’s comment… could send a strong signal to Pyongyang that the U.S. would be willing to accommodate at least some of the terms the North laid out laid out in Kwon Jong Kun’s press statement: that it will discuss denuclearization only when the U.S. removes threats to national security and hurdles to development.”
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