Kim ready to talk nukes with Trump

Kim Jong Un speaks during the Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang May 7, 2016
Kim Jong Un speaks during the Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang May 7, 2016

North Korean officials have told their US counterparts that Kim Jong-un is ready to discuss denuclearisation, an assurance that could pave the way for a planned meeting with President Donald Trump.

It is the first time Pyongyang has made the offer of a summit directly to Washington, after its invitation was previously conveyed through a South Korean envoy.

“The US has confirmed that Kim Jong-un is willing to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” a Trump administration official told said on Sunday.

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 next month.

The North’s offer to meet was delivered to the White House by South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, but Pyongyang has failed to publicly confirm the offer.

The silence made US officials nervous that Seoul had overstated the North’s willingness to negotiate over its own nuclear arsenal, and many remain sceptical about whether the planned summit could succeed.

It is scheduled to take place without the months of groundwork that usually precedes such meetings.

CNN reported on Saturday that secret, direct talks paving the way for the summit were under way between North Korean and US intelligence officials, citing White House sources.

But no specifics have emerged yet concerning the date or venue of the proposed summit, with a third country such as Mongolia or Sweden under consideration to host the talks, according to multiple reports.

Washington’s long-held stance is that it will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.

That means it wants to see complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation – a very high bar.

The North has previously demanded the withdrawal of US troops based in the South and the end of the security alliance between Seoul and Washington — an extraordinary concession that it is hard to imagine any previous US president acceding to.

South Korea welcomed the reported offer by the North to discuss denuclearisation.

“We are not a directly concerned party since it is something that is taking place between the US and North Korea, but if the reports are true, we view it positively and welcome it,” Nam Sang-kyu, a spokesman at the South’s presidential office, said.

The South will host its own summit later this month between Kim and the South’s president Moon Jae-in.