U.S. President Donald Trump will urge North Korea to act quickly to dismantle its nuclear arsenal when he meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month and isn’t willing to grant Pyongyang substantial sanctions relief in return for a freeze of its nuclear and missile tests, administration officials told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
The pace of Pyongyang’s nuclear dismantlement and the timetable for sanctions relief stand to be the major issues of the summit between the two.
“When the president says that he will not make the mistakes of the past, that means the U.S. will not be making substantial concessions, such as lifting sanctions, until North Korea has substantially dismantled its nuclear programs,” a senior Trump administration official told the newspaper.
“If North Korea is willing to move quickly to denuclearize, then the sky is the limit. All sorts of good things can happen,” the official added.
U.S. officials recently said North Korea had directly confirmed that Kim was willing to negotiate about potential denuclearization.
On Saturday, Kim announced that his country would close its nuclear test site and suspend long-range missile tests.
The statement has been hailed as an important move to establish a good atmosphere for the summit meeting.
Trump himself described Kim’s statement as “big progress” in a tweet on Friday, though in a Twitter message Sunday he added a note of caution.
“We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t—only time will tell,” he wrote.
In a meeting in Pyongyang over the Easter weekend, Kim reportedly tried to push Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo toward a phased agreement in which each side would make paired concessions on a timetable that could stretch out for years, according to a person familiar with the matter.
But the Trump administration is wary of making economic and diplomatic concessions upfront for steps to dismantle the North Korean arsenal that would only to be taken later. The administration favors what one person called a “big bang” approach, in which major concessions would be made by each side early on.
“A freeze in itself is easily reversed,” the senior Trump administration official told The Wall Street Journal. “When it comes to allowing economic activity to resume, that is something North Korea is going to have to earn.”