North Korea has rejected U.S. demands that it unilaterally abandon its nuclear program. It defends its nuclear and missile programs as a deterrent against what it sees as U.S. aggression. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Asked what would need to happen for the summit to take place, Sanders told reporters: “Denuclearization has to be on the table and the focus of the meeting.”
Trump’s aides will soon assess whether Kim Jong Un is willing to take serious steps before making a final decision on whether to go ahead with the summit, the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to Trump, told Fox News a summit might not take place on the date originally set but perhaps might go ahead shortly after.
Events have moved quickly since Kim Jong Un made a conciliatory New Year’s address at the end of last year, with Trump in March accepting Kim’s invitation to meet following months of sharply rising tension and warlike rhetoric between the two.
As efforts intensified to get the summit back on track, the
White House also said on Tuesday that Trump would meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington on June 7.
APPARENT WAIVER FOR NORTH KOREAN
The United States and South Korea blacklisted Kim Yong Chol
for supporting the North’s nuclear and missile programs in 2010 and 2016, respectively. But he was granted special permission for official travel to the United States, said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
During his tenure as a senior intelligence official, Kim was accused by South Korea of masterminding deadly attacks on a South Korean navy ship and an island in 2010. He was linked by U.S intelligence to a cyber attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.
North Korea denied any involvement in both attacks.
Human rights abuses in North Korea, including violations of religious freedom, are a “matter of discussion” ahead of the planned summit, Sam Brownback, U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, said on Tuesday.
But Washington wants North Korea’s nuclear program to be the focal point.
A leading U.S. expert, Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the U.S. Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico who is now at Stanford University, was quoted by Monday’s New York Times as saying denuclearization could take 15 years.
A report issued on Tuesday by the Washington-based Institute of Science and International Security argued it could be done in as little as two years for verified dismantling of key parts of the nuclear weapons program.
Reporting by Josh Smith and Matt Spetalnick; Additional reporting by Christine Kim, Hyonhee Shin and Jeongmin Kim in Seoul, Lesley Wroughton, Doina Chiacu, David Brunnstrom and James Oliphant in Washington, Michael Martina in Beijing, Kaori Kaneko, Malcolm Foster and Tim Kelly in Tokyo and Fathin Ungku in Singapore; Writing by Alistair Bell, Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney