SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed a willingness to discuss nuclear disarmament with the United States and impose a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests during such talks, a senior South Korean official said Tuesday after returning from the North.
Kim also agreed to meet with South Korea’s president at a tense border village in late April, presidential national security director Chung Eui-yong said after talks with Kim in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.
North Korea’s reported willingness to hold a “candid dialogue” with the United States to discuss denuclearization and establish diplomatic relations follows a year of increased fears of war on the Korean Peninsula, with Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump exchanging fiery rhetoric and crude insults over Kim’s barrage of weapons tests.
The Trump administration also pushed through some of the harshest sanctions the already hugely sanctioned North has yet faced.
Trump tweeted Tuesday that “possible progress” was being made in the talks with North Korea, and that all sides were making serious efforts. He added: “May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”
There is still skepticism whether the developments will help establish genuine peace between the Koreas, which have a long history of failing to follow through with major rapprochement agreements. The United States has made it clear that it doesn’t want empty talks with North Korea and that all options, including military measures, remain on the table.
The North has repeatedly said in the past that it won’t negotiate over its nuclear program and vowed to bolster its nuclear and missile arsenals. Its apparent about-face might be an attempt to win concessions as its economy struggles under the weight of sanctions, some analysts said, or a way to buy time to better develop nuclear missiles targeting the mainland United States.
Many experts believe North Korea won’t easily give up a nuclear program that it has doggedly developed, despite years of escalating international pressure, to cope with what it claims is U.S. hostility.