WASHINGTON — North Korean officials have told their US counterparts that Kim Jong Un is ready to discuss denuclearization, an assurance that could pave the way for a meeting with US President Donald Trump, reports said Sunday.
It is the first time the offer was made directly to Washington, after it was previously conveyed through South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong.
Washington stunned observers when it announced last month it had agreed to a historic first meeting between Trump and Kim to be held by the end of May.
But Pyongyang has not followed up with Washington since, which the Journal suggested had made US officials nervous that Seoul overstated the North’s willingness to negotiate over its own nuclear arsenal.
No specifics have yet emerged concerning the date or venue of the proposed summit.
Trump’s decision to accept an invitation to talks dumbfounded foreign policy experts and caught his own staff off guard.
But many are remain skeptical about whether they can succeed.
Washington will accept nothing less than Pyongyang verifiably giving up its nuclear arsenal, fuel enrichment and ballistic missile program.
But Kim is likely to insist “denuclearization” includes withdrawing the promise of a US “nuclear umbrella” to deter attacks on its treaty ally South Korea.
And he will repeat his demand that US forces leave the peninsula, an extraordinary concession that it is hard to imagine any previous US president acceding to.
The development comes days after the two Koreas held a working-level meeting was aimed at ironing out the protocols, security measures and media coverage of the summit between Kim and the South’s president Moon Jae-in on April 27.
An ongoing rapprochement was triggered by the South’s Winter Olympics, to which the North sent athletes, cheerleaders and Kim’s sister as an envoy.
Kim has since embarked on a diplomatic overture that has seen him pencil in summit meetings with the South and the US and make his international debut with a visit to Beijing — his first overseas trip since taking power in 2011.
The rapid diplomatic thaw on the peninsula has even seen Kim and his wife attend a concert put on by South Korean pop stars in the North’s capital.
A different group of officials from the two sides will meet Saturday for another round of working-level talks to discuss setting up a hotline between the leaders of North and South Korea.