Date
13 November 2019
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves from a train as he departs for a summit in Hanoi, in Pyongyang on Saturday. Photo: KCNA via Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves from a train as he departs for a summit in Hanoi, in Pyongyang on Saturday. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

North Korea warns Trump on critics as Kim heads for Hanoi summit

North Korea warned US President Donald Trump not to listen to critics who were disrupting efforts to improve ties, as its leader, Kim Jong-un, made his way across China by train to a second summit with Trump in Vietnam, Reuters reports.

The two leaders will meet in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday, eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, where they pledged to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But their vaguely worded agreement has produced few results and US Democratic senators and US security officials have warned Trump against cutting a deal that would do little to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

 The North’s KCNA state news agency said such opposition was aimed at derailing the talks.

“If the present US administration reads others’ faces, lending an ear to others, it may face the shattered dream of the improvement of the relations with the DPRK and world peace and miss the rare historic opportunity,” the news agency said in a commentary, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Trump administration has pressed the North to give up its nuclear weapons program, which, combined with its missile capabilities, pose a threat to the United States, before it can expect any concessions.

But in recent days Trump has signaled a possible softening, saying he would love to be able to remove sanctions if there is meaningful progress on denuclearization.

Trump also said he was in no rush and had no pressing schedule for North Korea’s denuclearization, hinting at a more gradual, reciprocal approach, long favored by Pyongyang.

The North also wants security guarantees and a formal end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Trump said on Sunday that he and Kim expect to make further progress at this week’s summit and again held out the promise that denuclearization would help North Korea develop its economy.

He also said Chinese President Xi Jinping has been supportive of Trump’s meeting with Kim. “The last thing China wants are large scale nuclear weapons right next door.”

Pompeo: No concrete steps yet

Trump scoffed at critics of his handling of North Korea. “So funny to watch people who have failed for years, they got NOTHING, telling me how to negotiate with North Korea. But thanks anyway!” he said in a tweet.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday that North Korea has yet to take “concrete” steps on denuclearization and said another summit might be needed beyond the one in Hanoi, but that he hoped for substantial progress this week.

“The alternative to giving up his nuclear weapons is remaining a pariah state, remaining a nation that is unable to trade, unable to grow, unable to take care of its own people,” Pompeo said of Kim in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union.

In a letter to Trump last week, three Democratic chairmen of key committees in the House of Representatives accused the administration of withholding information on the negotiations with North Korea.

“There are ample reasons to be skeptical that Chairman Kim is committed to a nuclear-free North Korea,” the lawmakers wrote.

US intelligence officials recently testified to Congress that North Korea was unlikely to ever give up its entire nuclear arsenal.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Pompeo has conceded in private discussions with Korea experts that he would be lucky if North Korea agreed to dismantle 60 percent of what the US has demanded, although he added that it would still be more than any other administration had achieved.

The State Department declined to comment on the report.

KCNA, referring to US fears of the North’s weapons, said if this week’s talks ended without results, “the US people will never be cleared of the security threats that threw them into panic”.

Few details of Kim’s trip to Vietnam were announced until early on Sunday, when North Korean state media confirmed he had left Pyongyang by train, accompanied by senior officials as well as his influential sister, Kim Yo-jong.

It could take the North Korean leader at least 2-1/2 days to travel to Vietnam by train.

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CG