President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he still believes North Korea “would like to make a deal” and left the door open for a third summit with Kim Jong Un despite a new warning from Pyongyang urging the US to change the course of its negotiations “before it is too late.”
“I think they would like to make a deal and we would like to make a deal,” Trump told reporters during his visit to Ireland, adding that he looks forward to seeing Kim “at the appropriate time.”
The US President also appeared to once again downplay the significance of North Korea’s most recent short-range ballistic missile test despite his national security adviser and acting defense secretary saying that last month’s launches violated UN resolutions.
Asked about the North Korean missile launches last month, State Department spokewoman Morgan Ortagus said that she believed “the entire North Korean WMD program, it’s in conflict with the UN security resolutions.”
Trump said, “It has been going pretty well because there hasn’t been testing of anything major and there has been no nuclear testing,” adding: “When I became president, and before that, it was all the time nuclear testing, ballistic missile testing and now there is nothing.”
Those comments came just hours after North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the US to change the course of its negotiations “before it is too late” as there is “a limit to our patience.”
“US should duly look back on the past one year and cogitate about which will be a correct strategic choice before it is too late,” a ministry spokesperson said in a statement published by state media agency KCNA. “The US would be well-advised to change its current method of calculation and respond to our request as soon as possible.”
“There is a limit to our patience,” the statement added, noting that the US “has missed a lifetime opportunity by insisting on “dismantlement of the nuke first.”
The State Department did not respond to CNN’s request for comment about the comments published by North Korean state media.
North Korea issues new warning
But despite Trump’s optimism, the US and North Korea talks have again hit an impasse following the Hanoi summit as Pyongyang is demanding sanctions relief before it begins to denuclearize, while the US insists that Pyongyang relinquish its nuclear weapons before any economic pressure is eased.
The North Koreans had been playing hardball themselves ahead of the summit in Hanoi, even threatening to cancel talks if the US was unwilling to budge on lifting sanctions. But in exchange, they were prepared to offer what, in their view, was a significant concession.
“They were willing to give everything, including all the facilities at Yongbyon (North Korea’s known nuclear reactor). Not just one physical reactor, but the whole complex,” one source previously told CNN.
“They were also willing to present their willingness to fully dismantle in the form of an official document. They were getting down to business pretty seriously. And then Mr. Trump, and the American side, turned down the proposal and left.”
The stunning collapse of talks created a crisis for Kim and his team of seasoned negotiators, who were left bewildered, according to analysis by CNN’s Will Ripley, who has visited North Korea 19 times since August 2014.
While the state of talks remains uncertain, analysts say that North Korea’s recent missile test and increasingly defiant rhetoric is intended to send a message to the US.
’Executed’ official is alive, source say
South Korea’s largest newspaper also reported last week that Kim executed one of his top negotiators after the failed Vietnam summit.
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported Friday that Kim Yong Chol, one of North Korea’s most senior officials who had sat in the White House across from Trump for talks little more than a year ago, had been purged and that special envoy to the United States, Kim Hyok Chol, had been executed by firing squad as punishment for the lack of success in Hanoi.
The report’s veracity was called into question Sunday after North Korean state media reported that Kim Yong Chol attended an art performance alongside Kim Jong Un. An invitation to join to join the North Korean leader in public would likely not be extended to someone who had fallen out of favor.
CNN reported Monday that Kim Hyok Chol, is alive and in state custody. He is being investigated for his role in the failed Hanoi summit, according to several sources familiar with the situation.
Kim Jong Un’s translator in Hanoi, Sin Hye Yong, is also is in custody and under investigation, sources said.
When asked about the reports in South Korean media Wednesday, Trump said that “one of the people they were talking about that was supposedly executed wasn’t executed at all,” referring to Kim Yong Chol, one of North Korea’s most senior officials.
In reality, reports said the official, Kim Yong Chol, has been sentenced to hard labor and not executed. There were separate reports of North Korean officials who were reportedly executed.
“He’s a strong man, he’s a strong person,” Trump said of Kim Yong Chol, “and they like to blame Kim Jong Un immediately but they said he was killed and he wasn’t. He was at the theater the other night, so he wasn’t killed.”
“The other four people I know nothing about but it is – it’s an interesting situation. I think they would like to make a deal and we would like to make a deal,” he added.
CNN’s Allie Malloy and Will Ripley contributed reporting