U.S. seeks concrete steps from Kim
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A day after U.S. President Donald Trump accepted an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for direct talks, the White House appeared to be taking a step back. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the proposed meeting was conditional on North Korea fulfilling certain commitments.
“They’ve got to follow through on the promises that they’ve made, and we want to see concrete and verifiable actions. The President has accepted that invitation on the basis that we see concrete and verifiable steps,” she said. Her statement leaves the possibility of a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim hanging, as verifying any action by North Korea is not easy for America in the absence of regular diplomatic contacts.
As the magnitude of the President’s decision to meet Mr. Kim sank in, U.S. lawmakers and commentators offered cautious support to the initiative.
“President Trump’s agreement to meet with Kim Jung-un in May is a big gamble and highly unorthodox,” said Gary Samore, executive director for Research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
In a comment to The Hindu, Mr. Samore, who served in the Obama White House as coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, said: “Normally, U.S. administrations have offered a summit with North Korean leaders as an incentive for concrete steps on denuclearisation. In contrast, President Trump has apparently accepted Kim Jung-un’s invitation to meet without any assurance of a productive result, beyond drama and spectacle.”
He added: “Expect administration officials to try to backtrack President Trump’s decision until they have confidence that the meeting will yield real progress towards denuclearisation. Whether such progress can be achieved before May is uncertain. As a consequence, the summit may be delayed. In any event, President Trump’s apparent commitment to pursue a diplomatic effort is a positive development that will reduce tension and the risk of war.”
The South Korean intermediaries who met Mr. Trump on Thursday with Mr. Kim’s message had said the President agreed to a meeting in May. Ms. Sanders made no such commitment on Friday. She said, the U.S would continue the pressure on Pyongyang for “concrete actions.”
“The maximum pressure campaign, we’re not letting up. We’re not going to step back or make any changes to that. We’re going to continue in that effort, and we’re not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump spoke on Friday with President Xi Jinping of China about developments related to North Korea.
“The two leaders welcomed the prospect of dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea, and committed to maintain pressure and sanctions until North Korea takes tangible steps toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation,” the White House said in a statement.