Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man, Kim Yong-chol, is currently in the United States and ready to visit the White House on Friday as the two sides scramble to get the Kim-Trump summit back on track after the US president canceled it.
President Donald Trump is expected to receive a letter from Kim Jong Un on Friday as the world anticipates a historic meeting between the two leaders, but an early read of the letter suggests North Korea will stay firm in its recent demeanor.
The US president now says he still hopes to meet Kim in Singapore on June 12 and pressure him to give up his nuclear weapons, although he conceded on Thursday that might require more rounds of direct negotiations.
“I’d like to see it done in one meeting,” Trump told Reuters. “But often times that’s not the way deals work. There’s a very good chance that it won’t be done in one meeting or two meetings or three meetings. But it’ll get done at some point.”
Though the US is engaged in three separate sets of talks with North Koreans around the globe, it’s still unclear whether Trump will actually meet with Kim.
It was North Korea that suggested during high-level talks on Friday that the two Koreas hold a joint celebration of the anniversary of a historic 2000 inter-Korean summit this month in the South, an official in Seoul said.
Kim’s letter, to be delivered by Kim Yong Chol, an infamous and sanctioned North Korean official, could have served as an inflection point in the decision-making process. But according to The Wall Street Journal, it puts the ball back in Trump’s court.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said late on Thursday that the details of Friday’s meeting between Kim Yong-chol and Trump in Washington were still being worked out. It was not clear whether the US president would receive Kim Jong-un’s envoy in the Oval Office.
It was also not clear what North Korea’s leader wrote in his letter to Trump, although it was seen as raising hopes that the summit meeting might be back on.
The Journal quoted a foreign government source as saying the letter was “fairly basic.” It said Kim wanted to meet Trump but didn’t make any concessions or threats, as have marked his previous communications.
After trading threats of war last year, the two men agreed to meet for an historic summit on June 12. But Trump canceled last week, over what he called Kim’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a string of public statements.
Even as he pulled out, though, Trump urged Kim to “call me or write” if he wanted to revive the meeting.
“They’ll have to choose a path that is fundamentally different than the one that their country has proceeded on for decades. It should not be to anyone’s surprise that there will be moments along the way, that this won’t be straightforward,” said the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who recently held a meeting with Kim Yong-chol in New York.