Kim Jong-un Says He’s Open to Another Trump Meeting, With Conditions
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said on Friday that he was willing to hold a third summit meeting with President Trump, but only if the United States changed its stance on enforcing sanctions by the end of this year, the country’s state media reported.
Mr. Kim’s remarks came a day after Mr. Trump said he was open to the idea of meeting Mr. Kim again, though their second round of talks, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, in late February, abruptly ended without a nuclear disarmament deal.
The Hanoi meeting collapsed after Mr. Kim demanded that Washington drop the most crippling sanctions imposed on his country in return for a partial dismantlement of the North’s nuclear program, an offer that Mr. Trump considered insufficient.
“I am willing to accept if the United States proposes a third North Korea-United States summit on the condition that it has a right attitude and seeks a solution that we can share,” Mr. Kim said in a speech to his country’s rubber-stamp legislature, the Supreme People’s Assembly, on Friday.
“What is clear is that if the United States sticks to its current political calculations, it will darken the prospects for solving the problem and will in fact be very dangerous,” Mr. Kim said, according to a text of the speech published in North Korean state media on Saturday.
The abrupt end of the Hanoi summit was an embarrassment for Mr. Kim, who had to return home without badly needed relief from sanctions.
On Friday, he said that his personal relationship with Mr. Trump was “still excellent” and that the two leaders “can exchange letters of greetings anytime we want.” But he stressed that he would never buckle under American pressure, urging his country to prepare for a prolonged standoff with the United States as long as sanctions stayed in place.
“I think we shouldn’t obsess with a summit with the United States only because we are thirsty for sanctions relief,” Mr. Kim said. “We will no longer obsess over lifting sanctions imposed by the hostile forces but we will open the path to economic prosperity through our own means.”
He said he would “wait patiently until the end of the year for the United States to make a bold decision” to “abandon its current calculation and approach us with a new one.” But he didn’t say what North Korea would do if the United States failed to meet that deadline.
“We don’t like — and we are not interested in — the United States’ way of dialogue, in which it tries to unilaterally push through its demands,” he said. “We don’t welcome — and we have no intention of repeating — the kind of summit meeting like the one held in Hanoi.”
Mr. Kim gave his speech after engineering one of his country’s largest leadership shake-ups in memory, bringing new blood into his economic and diplomatic teams as he vowed to defy sanctions by building a self-sufficient economy.
The leadership shuffle, announced during meetings of the legislature and the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, seemed to signal that Mr. Kim was digging in for protracted negotiations, as he replaced aging senior officials with younger, more aggressive ones and vowed repeatedly to overcome the sanctions.
At a meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party on Wednesday, Mr. Kim urged his people to build a “self-supporting national economy” so as to “deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the D.P.R.K. to its knees,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported, using the abbreviation for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Mr. Kim referred to a “self-supporting,” “self-reliant” or “self-sufficient” economy 25 times, calling it “the eternal lifeline essential to the destiny of our revolution.”
In North Korea, all power is concentrated in Mr. Kim, who has frequently shuffled leadership posts to test the elites’ loyalty and promote his policy goals. Mr. Kim holds several titles, but he has ruled mainly as chairman of the State Affairs Commission, the closest thing the North has to a White House.
This week, he further consolidated the commission’s role in the power structure, apparently preparing for harsh economic times and uncertain negotiations with the United States.
In a meeting of the Supreme People’s Assembly on Thursday, Mr. Kim was re-elected chairman of the commission, according to North Korean media. He also made one of his most trusted aides, Choe Ryong-hae, first vice chairman of the commission, cementing Mr. Choe’s status as the No. 2 official in the country.
Mr. Choe’s family has been loyal to Mr. Kim’s since the days of Mr. Kim’s grandfather, the North Korean founder Kim Il-sung. This week, Mr. Choe, 69, also replaced 91-year-old Kim Yong-nam as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, a role that has been equivalent to ceremonial head of state.
But North Korean media reports on Friday referred to the State Affairs Commission chairman — Mr. Kim — as “the supreme representative of all the Korean people,” which led some South Korean analysts to speculate that Mr. Kim had made himself the North’s formal head of state.
Mr. Kim also replaced his country’s premier, who oversees the economy. The outgoing premier, Pak Pong-ju, 80, has been an instrumental figure in the North’s experiment with market-oriented reforms.
To replace him, Mr. Kim chose Kim Jae-ryong, who has built his credentials as party boss of Jagang Province, which is home to many of the North’s munitions factories. The new premier is believed to be in his 60s.
Another notable figure in this week’s leadership shuffle was Choe Son-hui, a vice foreign minister, who became the newest member of the State Affairs Commission. Ms. Choe, believed to be in her mid-50s, has been a fixture in the North’s negotiations with Washington over the past couple of decades, which have been plagued by mutual recriminations and broken promises.
In recent months, Ms. Choe has become the North’s main spokeswoman, accusing Washington of “gangster-like” demands and warning that Mr. Kim might no longer be interested in talking to Mr. Trump unless the United States backed down on sanctions.
Ms. Choe’s elevation to the State Affairs Commission could indicate that Mr. Kim plans to engage in tougher and protracted negotiations with Washington to win sanctions relief, said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea.