US attempts to communicate with North Korea have included the “New York Channel” – through the North Korean mission at the United Nations.
A US official told Reuters there had been “multiple attempts” to engage with North Korea, but no meaningful contact for more than 12 months, which includes much of Donald Trump’s final year as president.
President Biden has already announced a policy review on North Korea, which is expected to be unveiled in April.
He has called Kim Jong-un a thug and stressed the need for North Korean nuclear disarmament before heavy US and UN economic sanctions can be eased.
Kim Jong-un has continued to emphasize North Korea’s military capability, claiming the development of more accurate long-range missiles, super large warheads, spy satellites and a nuclear-powered submarine.
At the same time the North Korean leader has called on the US to ditch its “hostile policies”.
North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are expected to feature prominently during this week’s visit to Japan and South Korea by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Relations between the US and North Korea plummeted in 2017 when North Korea tested long-range missiles capable of hitting American cities.
Tensions eased as President Trump bet on developing a personal rapport with Kim Jong-un.
However, the much-trumpeted meetings, including summits in Singapore and Vietnam, failed to overcome differences over nuclear disarmament and sanctions. The US rebuffed North Korean demands for the lifting of sanctions in return for only a partial reduction in nuclear capabilities.
North Korea is currently more cut off from the outside world than ever before. Its borders have been closed for over a year to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Trade with North Korea’s main ally China has dwindled by more than 90% in the last few months.
North Korea has accused Japan’s PM
Shinzo Abe of mislabeling its latest weapons test, branding him an “imbecile”
and “political dwarf”.
The Japanese prime minister
condemned North Korea for “repeated launches of ballistic missiles”
after two projectiles were fired on November 28.
However, North Korea insisted it was
testing a “super-large multiple-rocket launcher”.
On November 30, state media said
Japan “may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not distant
North Korea is banned from firing
ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions.
It is under various sets of
sanctions over its missile and nuclear programs. Lifting the sanctions has been
a key aim of North Korea in talks with the US – Japan’s ally – but these have
stalled since a summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald
Trump broke down in February.
North Korea fired what observers in South Korea called two “unidentified projectiles” from its South Hamgyong province into the Sea of Japan on November 28.North Korea Launches New Ballistic Missile over JapanNorth Korea fired what observers in South Korea called two “unidentified projectiles” from its South Hamgyong province into the Sea of Japan on November 28.
Condemning the launch, PM Shinzo Abe
said: “North Korea’s repeated
launches of ballistic missiles are a serious defiance to not only our country
but also the international community.”
North Korea issued images said to be
of Kim Jong-un inspecting the launch.
The KCNA state media said on
November 30: “It can be said that
Abe is the only one idiot in the world and the most stupid man ever known in
history as he fails to distinguish a missile from a multiple launch rocket
system while seeing the photo-accompanied report.”
It added: “Abe may see what a real ballistic missile is in the not distant
future and under his nose. Abe is none other than a perfect imbecile and a
Negotiations between North Korea and
the US remain stalled since the collapse of February’s summit in Hanoi.
President Trump and Kim Jong-un did
meet again in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Koreas in June and
agreed to restart working-level talks.
These began in October, but failed
to make any progress.
North Korea has demanded the US change its approach by the end of the year,
and was lukewarm in response to a tweet by President Trump hinting at another
meeting with Kim Jong-un.
In May, Shinzo Abe said he was ready to meet Kim Jong-un “without
conditions”, raising hopes of renewed negotiations on the nuclear issue as
well as on the lingering historical issue of North Korea’s abduction of
The Japanese were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s to help
train its spies. Japan believes 17 citizens were abducted, only five of whom
have since been repatriated.
However, PM Abe’s offer has not come to fruition. North Korea said this month that the Japanese leader would never set foot in Pyongyang after he condemned an earlier weapons test.
Kim Jong-un has climbed North Korea’s highest
mountain, Mount Paektu, on horseback, according to state media.
A series of photos released by KCNA show the North Korean leader astride a
white horse on a snow-covered mountain.
This is not the first time Kim Jong-un has scaled the 2,750-meter peak and
analysts say such gestures have been known to precede major announcements.
Mount Paektu holds a special place in North Korea’s identity and is feted as
the birthplace of Kim Jong-un’s father.
A KCNA report released on October 16 said: “His march on horseback in Mt Paektu is a great event of weighty
importance in the history of the Korean revolution.
“Sitting on the horseback atop Mt
Paektu, [he] recollected with deep emotion the road of arduous struggle he
covered for the great cause of building the most powerful country, with faith
and will as firm as Mt Paektu.”
In 2017, Kim Jong-un visited the mountain a few weeks before his New Year’s
address, where he hinted at a diplomatic thaw with South Korea.
The North Korean leader has reportedly climbed Mount Paektu at least three
times, and made a joint visit to the mountain with South Korean president Moon
Jae-in in 2018.
Six days ago, North Korea fired two
short range missiles, one of which travelled about 425 miles and the other 268
That launch was the first since President Trump and Kim Jong-un held an
impromptu meeting in June at the demilitarized zone (DMZ), an area that divides
the two Koreas, where they agreed to restarted denuclearization talks.
North Korea has recently again voiced anger over planned military exercises
between South Korea and the US, an annual event which the allies have refused
to cancel but have scaled back significantly.
One analyst said more missile tests could be expected.
North Korea called the drills a “violation of the spirit” of the
joint statement signed by President Trump and Kim Jong-un at their first
face-to-face talks in Singapore last year.
Pyongyang had warned the exercises could affect the resumption of
On July 29, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he hoped these talks
could start “very soon”, but that there were no further summits
Last year, Kim Jong-un said North Korea would stop nuclear testing and would no longer launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The missile launch also comes after anger from North Korea over planned
military exercises between South Korea and the US, an annual event. North Korea
warned they could affect the resumption of denuclearization talks.
About 29,000 US soldiers are based in South Korea, under a security
agreement reached after the war ended in 1953.
In 2018, Kim Jong-un said North Korea would stop nuclear testing and would
no longer launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Nuclear activity appears to be continuing, however, and satellite images of
North Korea’s main nuclear site last month showed movement, suggesting the
country could be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel.
North Korea also continues to demonstrate its abilities to develop new
weapons despite strict economic sanctions. Earlier this week Kim Jong-un
inspected a new type of submarine, state media reported, which could be
developed to carry ballistic missiles, according to some analysts.
In May, Pyongyang also conducted a similar short-range missile launch, its
first such test since its intercontinental ballistic missile launch in 2017.
President Trump responded then by saying he believed Kim Jong-un would not do
anything that could jeopardize his country’s path towards better relations.
Donald Trump tweeted that Kim Jong-un “knows that I am with him and does not want to break his promise to me”.
President Donald Trump has offered to meet
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North
and South Korea.
North Korea has described President Trump’s offer as a “very
Donald Trump has arrived in South Korea to discuss the flagging North Korea
If Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un were to see each other at the DMZ, it would
be their third meeting in just over a year, and their first since a summit in
Vietnam broke down in February.
President Trump tweeted: “After
some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China,
I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if
Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just
to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”
President Trump – who is visiting South Korea after attending the G20 summit
in Japan – conceded that the pair could see each other only “for two
However, despite the apparent lack of any diplomatic preparation, some have
suggested another face-to-face meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un
could help reset relations and set the scene for future talks.
Only a few hours later, North Korea’s first vice-minister for foreign
affairs, Choe Son Hui, said in statement: “We
see it as a very interesting suggestion, but we have not received an official
proposal in this regard.”
Such a meeting, the statement added, “would serve as another meaningful
occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders
and advancing the bilateral relations”.
It remains unclear whether officials with President Trump were briefed in
advance about his overture to Kim Jong-un, and South Korea’s presidency said
nothing was yet confirmed.
Last week, a South Korean official said Donald Trump was considering a trip
to the DMZ, prompting speculation a meeting with Kim Jong-un could be possible.
President Trump attempted to make a surprise visit to the area in November
2017, but was forced to abandon the plans due to bad weather.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has overseen a
“strike drill” testing various missile components on May 4, state
media has confirmed.
“A number of short-range projectiles” were also fired from the
Hodo peninsula into the Sea of Japan, the state media said.
Kim Jong-un gave the order of firing to “increase the combat
ability” of North Korea, the announcement said.
President Donald Trump tweeted he believed Kim Jong-un would not jeopardize
the path towards better relations.
He added that Kim Jong-un “knows that I am with him & does not want
to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!
President Trump tweeted on May 4: “Anything
in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong-Un
fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea and will do nothing
to interfere or end it.”
Donald Trump walked away from what he described as a bad deal offered by the
North Korean at a summit meeting in Hanoi in February.
In its report on May 5, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim
Jing-un had stressed the need to “defend the political sovereignty and
economic self-sustenance” of North Korea in the face of threat and
The aim of the drill, which was testing “large-caliber long-range
multiple rocket launchers”, was to “inspect the operating ability and
the accuracy of striking duty performance,” the report said.
Kim Jong-un told troops to bear in mind “the iron truth that genuine
peace and security are ensured and guaranteed only by powerful strength”.
It is believed that latest test is intended to increase pressure on
Washington to move nuclear talks forward.
Last month, North Korea said it had tested what it described as a new
“tactical guided weapon”.
That was the first test since the Hanoi summit.
Analysts say a short-range solid fuel ballistic missile was fired on May 4,
making this the most serious test since North Korea fired an intercontinental
ballistic missile in November 2017.
However, the test does not violate North Korea’s promise not to test
long-range or nuclear missiles.
North Korea has labeled a break-in
at its Madrid embassy last month as a “grave terrorist attack”.
In its first official comment, the
North Korean government called for an investigation and said it was closely
watching rumors that the FBI had played a role.
On March 27, the Cheollima Civil
Defense (CDC), a group committed to ousting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said
it carried out the raid.
The group took computers and data
and said it gave its evidence to the FBI.
At least two international arrest
warrants have been issued for the main suspects.
Spanish authorities say one suspect,
named as Adrian Hong Chang, gained access by asking to see the commercial
attaché, whom he claimed to have met previously to discuss business matters.
His accomplices burst in once he was inside.
The CDC is accused of interrogating
the attaché and trying to persuade him to defect. When he refused, they left him
tied up in the basement.
Two other members of the break-in group were named as US citizen Sam Ryu,
and a South Korean, Woo Ran Lee.
Embassy staff were held hostage for several hours. One woman managed to
flee, escaping through a window and screaming for help. Concerned neighbors
quickly called the police.
When officers arrived, they were greeted by Adrian Hong Chang, posing as a
North Korean diplomat in a jacket with a Kim Jong-un lapel badge.
He told the police that all was well, and nothing had happened.
Most of the group later fled the embassy in three North Korean diplomatic
vehicles. Adrian Hong Chang and some others left later via the back entrance
using another vehicle.
They split up into four groups and headed to Portugal. Adrian Hong Chang – a
Mexican citizen who lives in the US – allegedly contacted the FBI to give his
version of events five days later.
CDC, also known as Free Joseon, is committed to overthrowing North Korea’s
ruling Kim dynasty.
A video posted on the group’s
website and YouTube page purports to show one of the intruders smashing
portraits of North Korea’s leaders inside the Madrid embassy.
The Cheollima Civil Defense first
came to prominence after taking credit for getting Kim Jong-un’s nephew, Kim
Han-sol, safely out of Macau after the assassination of his father.
Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader’s
estranged half-brother, was murdered at an airport in Malaysia in 2017.
Kim Han-sol has expressed his desire
to go back to North Korea, and has referred to his uncle as a “dictator”.
Sources close to the investigation reportedly told Spanish newspaper El País that the operation was planned
perfectly, as if by a “military cell”.
According to El País and El Confidencial, the attackers seemed to
know what they were looking for. Spanish authorities suspect US intelligence
agencies and their allies could have been involved in the attack.
El País even reports that two of
the group have links to the CIA.
The US has denied any involvement in the raid.
Reports say the attackers could have been looking for information on North Korea’s former ambassador to Madrid, Kim Hyok-chol, who was expelled from Spain in September 2017 over North Korea’s nuclear testing program.
The Sohae launch facility at the Tongchang-ri site has been used for
satellite launches and engine testing but never for ballistic missile launches.
This week’s satellite images, coming from several US think tanks and
testimony from the South Korean intelligence service, appear to show rapid
progress has been made in rebuilding structures on the rocket launch pad.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said North Korea could yet face
more sanctions if there is no progress on denuclearization.
A historic first meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2018 in Singapore produced a vaguely worded agreement on “denuclearization” but little progress.
President Donald Trump has arrived in Vietnam’s
capital, Hanoi, ahead of his second summit with North Korean leader, Kim
Air Force One landed at Noi Bai airport hours after Kim Jon-un reached Hanoi
by train and car.
The summit, which is due to take place between February 27 and 28, follows a
historic first round of talks in Singapore in 2018.
Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un are expected to discuss progress towards
ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.
Ceremonial guards had lined a red carpet laid out for Kim Jong-un as he
arrived at Dong Dang border station on February 26. He was then driven to
Hanoi, where heavy security and flag-waving crowds were waiting for him.
Kim Jong-un is thought to be
travelling with his sister Kim Yo-jong and one of his key negotiators, former
General Kim Yong-chol, both familiar faces from the previous summit with PresidentTrump.
The journey from Pyongyang to Hanoi
took more than two days and traversed about 2,500 miles.
As Kim Jong-un’s train passed
through China, roads were closed and train stations shut down. Chinese social
media was abuzz with road closures, traffic congestion and delayed trains.
Vietnam’s Dong Dang station was also
closed to the public ahead of his arrival.
Kim Jong-un is now being driven
around 100 miles to Hanoi by car.
The North Korean leader chose to
take the train as this is how his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, travelled when he
went to Vietnam and Eastern Europe.
Kim Jong-un’s private green and
yellow train has 21 bulletproof carriages and is luxurious, with plush pink
leather sofas and conference rooms so the journey would not have been
Air Force One left Andrews Air Force
Base in Maryland, landing in Hanoi on Tuesday night local time.
Details of their schedule are only
just becoming clear. President Trump will meet Kim Jong-un for a brief
one-on-one conversation on February 27 and then they will have dinner together
with their advisers, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. On
February 28, the leaders will meet for a series of back-and-forth meetings.
The Hanoi meeting is expected to
build on the groundwork of what was achieved at the Singapore summit in June
The first summit produced a vaguely
worded agreement, with both leaders agreeing to work towards denuclearization –
though it was never made clear what this would entail.
However, little diplomatic progress
was made following that meeting.
This time round, both leaders will
be very conscious that expectations will be high for an outcome that
demonstrates tangible signs of progress.
However, President Trump appeared to
be managing expectations ahead of the summit, saying he was in “no
rush” to press for North Korea’s denuclearization.
He said: “I don’t want to rush anybody. I just don’t want testing. As long
as there’s no testing, we’re happy.”
Vietnam has been chosen for many
reasons. It has diplomatic relations with both the US and North Korea, despite
once having been enemies with the US – and could be used by the US as an
example of two countries working together and setting aside their past
Ideologically, both Vietnam and North Korea are communist countries – though Vietnam has rapidly developed since and become one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, all while the party there retains absolute power.
President Trump took a swipe at China in the second of three tweets on the issue.
He tweeted: “…Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place)…”
China and the US are embroiled in a tit-for-tat tariff war after President Trump complained about the size of the US trade deficit with China and what Washington sees as other unfair trade practices.
However, only two days ago President Trump said China had been a “big help on North Korea”.
Mike Pompeo might still make another trip though.
President Trump tweeted: “…Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved. In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!”
After the optimism of Singapore, the latest development might seem like quite a change.
However, there have been ups and downs in the Trump-North Korea relationship since then.
After a visit by Mike Pompeo in July, North Korea condemned his “gangster-like demands”, only for another trip to be announced, albeit now cancelled.
The summit itself was called off in May – President Trump citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility” – only for it to take place after all.
The US has made clear that it wants to see an end to North Korea’s nuclear activities before it will consider lifting economic sanctions.
The summit was seen as possible turning point after a ratcheting up of tensions.
North Korea had carried out a sixth nuclear bomb test in September and boasted of its ability to launch a missile at the US.
Speaking to reporters, President Donald Trump revealed:
The US would suspend “provocative” drills it holds with South Korea. He wanted to see US troops withdraw from South Korea. A spokesperson for the US forces said they had yet to receive any new guidance
On denuclearization, Kim Jong-un had agreed to it being “verified”, a key US demand ahead of the meeting
they had also agreed to destroy a “major missile engine testing site”
however, sanctions would remain in place for now and argued “we haven’t given up anything”.
Several reporters asked whether President Trump had raised the issue of human rights with Kim Jong-un, who runs a totalitarian regime with extreme censorship and forced-labor camps.
President Trump said he had, and did not retract his description of Kim Jong-un as “talented”.
He said: “Well, he is very talented.
“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough. I don’t say he was nice.”
In a post-summit interview with ABC News, President Trump said he was confident that the agreement meant full denuclearization.
“Yeah, he’s de-nuking, I mean he’s de-nuking the whole place. It’s going to start very quickly. I think he’s going to start now,” he said.
“I think he trusts me and I trust him,” the president added.
Sitting alongside each other, ahead of a one-on-one meeting, President Trump and Kim Jong-un appeared relaxed against the odds.
Kim Jong-un said: “It was not easy to get here.
“There were obstacles but we overcame them to be here.”
The two leaders, accompanied only by interpreters, spoke for a little under 40 minutes. They were then joined by small delegations of advisers for a working lunch.
Over lunch Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un shared a mix of Western and Korean dishes, including stuffed cucumbers and Daegu jorim, a soy-braised fish dish.
President Trump told reporters on the White House lawn: “We’ll be meeting on June 12th in Singapore. It went very well.”
“We’ve got to know their people very well,” he added.
President Trump cautioned that the summit might not achieve a final deal on North Korea’s controversial nuclear program.
“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 very positive,” President Trump said.
The historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders. President Trump has offered to help rebuild North Korea’s economy if it scraps its nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un says he is committed to “denuclearization” in some form but his precise demands are unclear.
Kim Yong-chol was scheduled to fly to New York on May 30, after speaking with Chinese officials in Beijing, Yonhap reported, citing diplomatic sources.
The former spy chief would be the most high-profile North Korean official to visit the US since 2000.
The apparent introduction of Kim Yong-chol to negotiations would be significant, as it would underline North Korea’s desire to ensure the talks go ahead.
He has been part of recent high-profile diplomatic overtures by North Korea.
Kim Yong-chol, 72, is a controversial figure in neighboring South Korea, and previously served as a negotiator in inter-Korean talks.
During his time as a military intelligence head, Kim Yong-chol was accused of being behind attacks on South Korean targets, including the torpedoing of a South Korea warship which killed 46 seamen, as well as the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.
As a result of these incidents, the US imposed personal sanctions on him in 2010 and 2015.
Despite reportedly being punished for an “overbearing attitude” in 2016, Kim Yong-chol has continued to hold senior posts in the army and party, and was the head of North Korea’s delegation to the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
He is regularly seen at Kim Jongg-un’s side and has attended meetings with the leaders of China and South Korea, and met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang.
In February, Kim Yong-chol was sent to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he sat close to President Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump.
President Trump said: “I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have the long-planned meeting.”
“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” he added.
The president called the meeting a “missed opportunity”, saying “someday, I look very much forward to meeting you”.
President Trump was apparently responding to statements from North Korea attacking his administration and casting doubt over the meeting.
Earlier today, North Korean official Choe Son-hui dismissed remarks by US Vice-President Mike Pence – who had said North Korea “may end like Libya” – as “stupid”.
Choe Son-hui, who has been involved in several diplomatic interactions with the US over the past decade, said North Korea would not “beg” for dialogue and warned of a “nuclear showdown” if diplomacy failed.
A White House official quoted by Reuters described the comments about Mike Pence as the “last straw”. They stressed, however, there was a “backdoor that’s open still”.
References to Libya have angered North Korea. There, former leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.
Exactly what that would entail has remained unclear, but North Korea has invited foreign media to witness the dismantling of its main nuclear test site later this month.
John Bolton recently said North Korea could follow a “Libya model” of verifiable denuclearization, but this alarms Pyongyang, which watched Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi give up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.
Kim Kye-gwan’s statement, carried by North Korea’s state media, said that if the US “corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks” and “will have to reconsider” attending the June 12 summit in Singapore.
The official said North Korea did have “high hopes” but that it was “very unfortunate that the US is provoking us ahead of the summit by spitting out ludicrous statements”.
He is known to be highly respected in the North Korean leadership and has taken part in negotiations with the US before. There is very little chance Kim Kye-gwan;s comments were not personally endorsed by Kim Jong-un.
Hours before the announcement, in a sign of growing problems, Pyongyang has also pulled out of a meeting scheduled with South Korea on May 16 because of anger over the start of US-South Korean joint military drills.
Pyonyang had earlier said it would allow them to go ahead, but then called them “a provocative military ruckus” which was undermining its diplomatic efforts.
The sudden change in tone from North Korea is said to have taken US officials by surprise. Analysts said Pyongyang could be trying to strengthen its hand before talks.
The US state department said it was continuing to plan the Trump-Kim meeting, and President Trump is yet to comment.
No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.
According to the White House, the American citizens detained in North Korea were freed as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit, which President Trump earlier said he thought would be a “big success”.
The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – over which Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un furiously sparred in 2017.
North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests since 2006, despite international condemnation and sanctions, saying it needs the weapons for its own security.
The US wants North Korea to give up its weapons program completely and irreversibly.
Ahead of the meeting, Kim Jong-un has pledged to stop nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, and also to shut down a nuclear test site.
However, analysts caution that Kim Jong-un is unlikely to easily abandon nuclear weapons that he has pushed so hard to obtain, and that “denuclearization” means something quite different to both sides.
The US and Singapore have a close relationship. Singapore has diplomatic ties with North Korea but suspended all trade with the country in November 2017 as international sanctions were tightened.
Other locations which had been considered for the Trump-Kim summit included Mongolia and the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ).
Asked if this was his proudest achievement, President Trump said that would be “when we denuclearize that entire peninsula”.
He said: “It’s a great honor. But the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons.”
Of the upcoming summit, President Trump said: “I think that we’re going to have… a very big success… I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.”
He said he hoped he could travel to North Korea one day and that he believed Kim Jong-un wanted to bring his country “into the real world”.
The three men were smiling and waving and appeared in good health.
In an impromptu chat before the media with President Trump, Kim Dong-chul said: “It’s like a dream and we are very, very happy. We were treated in many different ways. For me, I had to do a lot of labor. But when I got sick I was also treated by them.”
Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul had released an earlier statement saying: “We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and the people of the United States for bringing us home.
“We thank God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return.”
The three men had been jailed for anti-state activities and placed in labor camps.
Their release came during a visit to North Korea by Mike Pompeo to arrange details of the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
According to the North Korean state news agency KCNA, Kim Jong-un said he had accepted a US proposal to grant the three detainees an amnesty, adding that his meeting with President Trump would be an “excellent first step” towards improving the situation on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has historically used its foreign prisoners as leverage in its diplomatic dealings.
One of the detainees was jailed in 2015, the other two have been in prison for just over a year. Their convictions have been widely condemned as political and an abuse of human rights.
The last American to be freed – Otto Warmbier, who was jailed for stealing a hotel sign – was released last year but was fatally ill, and died shortly after returning home. The cause of death remains unexplained.
Mike Pompeo said a “good relationship” was formed at the first meeting in April, which marked the highest level US contact with North Korea since 2000.
A state department official travelling with Mike Pompeo said the US would also be “listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantially changed” with the nation’s nuclear ambitions.
Last month, President Trump stunned the international community by accepting North Korea’s suggestion for direct talks – it will be an unprecedented move for a sitting US president to meet a North Korean leader.
President Trump referred to Mike Pompeo’s latest visit while announcing that the US was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran.
President Moon Jae-in’s spokesman said that Kim Jong-un had stated he “would carry out the closing of the nuclear test site in May”.
Yoon Young-chan added that the North Korean leader had also said he “would soon invite experts of South Korea and the US to disclose the process to the international community with transparency”.
President Moon Jae-in’s office also said North Korea would change its time zone – currently half an hour different – to match that of South Korea.
North Korea has so far made no public comments on the issue.
Situated in mountainous terrain in the north-east, the Punggye-ri site is thought to be North Korea’s main nuclear facility.
The nuclear tests have taken place in a system of tunnels dug below Mount Mantap, near the Punggye-ri site.
Six nuclear tests have been carried out there since 2006.
After the last nuclear test, in September 2017, a series of aftershocks hit the site, which seismologists believe collapsed part of the mountain’s interior.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency Kim Jong-un made an apparent reference to these reports, saying: “Some say that we are terminating facilities that are not functioning, but you will see that they are in good condition.”
The information about the Punggye-ri site has been gathered mainly from satellite imagery and tracking the movement of equipment at the location.
Kim Jong-un has become the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
In a moment rich with symbolism and pomp, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un shook hands at the border.
Kim Jong-un said it was the “starting point” for peace, after crossing the military line that divides the peninsula. He also pledged a “new history” in relations with his neighbor.
His visit comes just months after warlike rhetoric from North Korea.
Much of what the summit will focus on has been agreed in advance, but many analysts remain skeptical about North Korea’s apparent enthusiasm for engagement.
Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in were met on April 27 by an honor guard in traditional costume on the South Korean side. The leaders walked to the Peace House in Panmunjom, a military compound in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two countries.
The North Korean leader then invited the South Korean president to step briefly across the demarcation line into North Korea, before the pair stepped back into South Korea – all the while holding hands.
It was an apparently unscripted moment during a highly choreographed sequence of events.
When the first session ended, the pair separated for lunch and Kim Jong-un returned to North Korea in a heavily guarded black limousine.
When he returned in the afternoon, the leaders took part in a ceremony consisting of the planting of a pine tree using soil and water from both countries.
Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in shoveled soil on the roots of the tree and unveiled a stone marker featuring their names, official titles and a message that read: “Planting peace and prosperity.”
The Korean summit will conclude with the leaders signing an agreement and delivering a joint statement before dinner. The banquet will be held on South Korea’s side and the menu is as symbolic as the other rituals.
According to local sources, Kim Jong-un will serve Swiss potato dish rosti – a nod to his time studying in Switzerland – along with North Korea’s signature dish of cold noodles, and North Korean liquor.
Kim Jong-un is accompanied by nine officials, including his powerful and influential sister Kim Yo-jong.
The Korean meeting – the first between Korean leaders in more than a decade – is seen as a step toward possible peace on the peninsula and marks the first summit of its kind for Kim Jong-un.
The summit carries promise for both Koreas with topics being discussed ranging from nuclear technology and sanctions to separated families, and is seen as an opportunity to foster economic co-operation.
Ahead of talks with President Moon at the Peace House in the border village of Panmunjom, Kim Jong-un said: “I feel that [we] have fired a flare at the starting point… the moment of writing a new history vis-à-vis peace, prosperity and North-South relations.”
He also wrote in a guestbook: “A new history begins now.”
The White House has expressed hope that the talks will achieve progress towards peace ahead a proposed meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump in the coming weeks – an unprecedented move.
Talks are likely to focus on reaching an agreement on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which has advanced significantly since the last summit more than a decade ago.
South Korea has warned that a deal to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons will be “difficult” to achieve.
Kim Jong-un announced last week that he was suspending nuclear tests.
The move was welcomed by the US and South Korea, although Chinese experts have indicated that North Korea’s nuclear test may be unusable after a rock collapse following its last nuclear test.
As well as addressing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in are expected to discuss a formal end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, as well as economic and social issues.
Mike Pompeo’s trip was the highest level meeting with a North Korean leader since 2000 when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader, in Pyongyang.
In 2014, the then-head of National Intelligence James Clapper visited North Korea in a secret mission to negotiate the release of two US citizens. James Clapper did not meet Kim Jong-un during his trip.
President Trump stunned the international community last month by accepting North Korea’s suggestion for direct talks. It would be unprecedented for a sitting US president to meet a North Korean leader.
Donald Trump said the summit would take place either in early June or “a little before that” and that several sites were under consideration but that none of them were in the US.
Analysts have speculated that a location for talks could be the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea, Beijing, another Asian country, Europe or even a vessel in international waters.
North Korea has been isolated for decades because of its well-documented human rights abuses and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of international laws and UN sanctions.
Pyongyang has carried out six nuclear tests, and has missiles that could reach the US.
However, South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympics in February gave an unexpected window for diplomacy and in the weeks since there have been a flurry of visits to North Korea from China, South Korea and now the US.
President Trump’s estimate that a meeting could take place in June or earlier appears to be one the administration is taking seriously.
However, news of Mike Pompeo’s visit is also likely to overshadow the other key diplomatic balancing act under way, which is the important relationship with Japan, a key US ally and neighbor of North Korea.
There have been fears in Tokyo that President Trump’s plans for bilateral talks could sideline Japan and Shinzo Abe is currently in Washington for talks with the US leader.
Relations between the two men appeared cordial on this, the second time that President Trump has welcomed Shinzo Abe to his Mar-a-Lago resort.
On April 17, President Trump insisted that the two countries were “very unified on the subject of North Korea”, and PM Shinzo Abe praised the president’s handling of the North Korea issue.
However, observers say Shinzo Abe’s goal for his US trip will be to persuade President Trump as much as he can not to sway from the West’s hard line on North Korea.
PM Shinzo Abe has repeatedly sought to portray a close personal relationship with President Trump and was the first foreign leader to meet him in New York after his election victory in 2016.
China has welcomed the development, saying the Korean peninsula issue was “heading in the right direction” and calling for “political courage”.
However, North Korea has halted missile and nuclear tests during previous talks, only to resume them when it lost patience or felt it was not getting what it demanded.
The latest announcement came days after the South Korean delegation met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang.
Speaking outside the White House after briefing President Trump, South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong said he had passed on a message that Kim Jong-un was “committed to denuclearization” and had “pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests”.
According to a statement sent to the Washington Post, North Korea’s UN ambassador said the “courageous decision” of Kim Jong-un would help secure “peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region”.
There is no indication yet of where the Trump-Kim talks might take place, but the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) and Beijing are seen as likely options.
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