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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

US in ‘process of coordinating’ second meeting between Trump and Kim

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said correspondence from North Korean leader was ‘warm and positive’

A torch parade in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang during the 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of North Korea, on September 9, 2018. AFP
A torch parade in Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang during the 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of North Korea, on September 9, 2018. AFP

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un requested a second meeting with president Donald Trump, and United States diplomats are already working to set up the summit, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.

“The primary purpose of the letter was to request and look to schedule another meeting with the president, which we are open to and are already in the process of co-ordinating,” Ms Sanders said.

The White House spokeswoman said the correspondence, which Mr Trump received on Monday, won’t be publicly released unless the dictator gives permission. But Ms Sanders described the document as “a very warm, very positive letter”.

The request is the latest direct communication between the two leaders, who held a summit in Singapore in June and agreed that North Korea would abandon its nuclear weapons programme. But Mr Kim’s regime has shown little signs that it is moving towards denuclearisation, and Mr Trump cancelled a planned trip to Pyongyang by secretary of state Mike Pompeo last month, citing a lack of progress.

Still, Ms Sanders said the administration was encouraged that a recent parade in North Korea was one of the first in which the country wasn’t “highlighting their nuclear arsenal”.

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In the past, North Korea has used such pageants to show off its most advanced weapons including intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the US.

But on Sunday, almost half of the military parade was devoted to showcasing civilian efforts to build the country’s economy, the Associated Press reported. Foreign journalists in the North Korean capital posted Twitter photos showing parade floats with large slogans pushing economic development.

“We consider that a sign of good faith,” Ms Sanders said. The letter from Kim “certainly showed a commitment to continuing conversations, continuing to work on the progress that they have had since their meeting,” she added.

Mr Trump praised Mr Kim for the military parade over the weekend, calling it a “big and very positive statement from North Korea”, in a tweet.

Ms Sanders declined to say whether the leaders’ second meeting would be in Washington, or if the US hoped the summit would occur before the end of the calendar year.

“We’ll let you know when we have further details,” she said.

Mr Kim told visiting South Korean envoys last week that he wants “goodwill measures” North Korea has taken to be reciprocated. He expressed frustration with scepticism about his commitment to end the country’s nuclear programme.

The North Korean leader also pressed for a formal peace agreement to end the 1950-53 Korean War, according to South Korean officials.

Mr Kim has been eager to secure the formal declaration. But US and South Korean officials have been wary of signing a document that could legitimise his control over half the peninsula without more concrete concessions, particularly a timeline for denuclearisation and an agreement defining the term.

Mr Pompeo told a Senate Committee in July that North Korea continues to produce fissile material that could be used in nuclear weapons. US satellite photos and other evidence show North Korea also continued to build intercontinental ballistic missiles in the weeks after Mr Kim and Mr Trump agreed to work toward denuclearisation, according to a Washington Post report.