Ns News Online Desk: WASHINGTON — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is willing to discuss giving up his nuclear weapons, U.S. officials have confirmed, a concession that clears the way for a historic meeting with President Trump.
The assurances come as North Korean and American officials have been in back-channel talks on setting up a meeting between Trump and Kim as soon as next month.
“The U.S. has confirmed that Kim Jong Un is willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” a Trump administration official told The Post on Sunday. The announcement means that the United States and North Korea are a step closer to genuine talks on eliminating the threat of nuclear war.
It’s a significant turnaround from the heated rhetoric of months past. Last year, Trump was threatening Kim with “fire and fury” in the face of continued nuclear and missile tests. In a war of insults that seemed to be spiraling out of control, Trump famously dubbed Kim “Little Rocket Man.”
Kim called Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard.” But a thaw between the nations took hold with help of the Pyeongchang Olympics in February. Wanting a successful and safe Games, South Korea began talking to North Korea again.
Their athletes marched together under one flag for the Opening ceremony. During a visit to the White House in March, a South Korean envoy conveyed North Korea’s willingness for denuclearization talks and an offer to refrain from nuclear and missile tests.
In a shocking move, Trump agreed to meet with the rouge regime’s leader. Planning efforts have since been underway with outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo and a team at the CIA working through intelligence back-channels, CNN reported Saturday.
Pompeo is facing confirmation hearings this week in the Senate as Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. Intelligence officials from both nations have spoken directly on several occasions and have met in a third country to prepare a location for the talks, the network reported.
Through these communications, the U.S. has now been able to confirm what South Korea initially relayed: Kim is willing to talk about denuclearization. Previously, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had said there were at least two or three channels through which U.S. and North Korean officials communicate from time to time.
The Trump administration has not said where the meeting will place or whether a location has been determined, nor has an exact date been set. Initially, the White House said it expected the meeting to take place by the end of May. It’s unclear whether a date that early could be achieved or whether it might be delayed.
The contacts between Pyongyang and Washington come as Trump’s new national security adviser, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, prepares to start work at the White House formally on Monday. Prior to being named to the post, Bolton had long expressed hawkish views about North Korea, even advocating a pre-emptive military strike.