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(2nd LD) Trump says he expects talks with N. Korean leader next month

Diplomacy 08:56 January 21, 2019

(ATTN: CHANGES dateline; UPDATES with Sweden talks, Pence's remarks on N. Korea in paras 10-16)

WASHINGTON/STOCKHOLM, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday he's looking forward to meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the end of next month.

He cited "great meetings" with top North Korean representatives in Washington earlier this week.

Kim Yong-chol, who is known as the right-hand man to the North's leader, and his entourage traveled to the U.S. capital. He had talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and met with Trump.

"The Media is not giving us credit for the tremendous progress we have made with North Korea," Trump tweeted. "Think of where we were at the end of the Obama Administration compared to now."

He was apparently referring to a dialogue mood amid halts to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile testing.

"Looking forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at end of February!" Trump added.

He earlier told reporters "a lot of progress" has been made on the issue of denuclearizing the secretive communist nation.

He also said the location of his second summit with Kim has been picked.

"We picked a country," he said but did not elaborate. Multiple news reports say Vietnam has already begun logistical preparations.

Pyongyang and Washington are in working-level consultations on relevant details in Sweden.

North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui and U.S. Special Representative Stephen Biegun began discussions at a remote conference situated northwest of Stockholm on the weekend.

They plan to continue talks through Tuesday, according to news reports.

South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, is also staying at the facility for bilateral or trilateral discussions.

If the Sweden negotiations are fruitful, the U.S. is expected to announce the exact schedule and venue for another summit with North Korea before long.

Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, said that in the second summit, the U.S. will be laying out its expectations for North Korea to "take concrete steps to begin to make real the denuclearization that Kim Jong-un committed to."

"And again, the president is very optimistic," he said in an interview with Fox News. "The president believes that we can make real progress, and we are going to continue to strive forward."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed skepticism about the denuclearization of North Korea, which previous U.S. administrations failed to achieve.

"It's the first time a North Korean leader has met with a United States president, looked him in the eye and said I'll do it," he said in an interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group earlier this week, according to a transcript released by his department Sunday.

The leaders of the Korean War foes had summit talks in Singapore on June 12 last year.

The two sides agreed to take measures toward denuclearization and building mutual trust.

"There aren't nuclear tests being conducted. There haven't been missile tests conducted. These are things that were threatening the United States when President Trump took office," the secretary said. "We want to reduce that risk, reduce North Korea's capacity to build out their program."

He added those discussions are an "important component" to implement the Singapore accord.


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