In her regular press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that the Trump administration was “in the process of coordinating” a follow-up to the June 12 summit meeting between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The confirmation of efforts toward a second summit came after the White House noted that Trump had received another letter from Kim — a letter that Sanders described as “very warm, very positive.”
“The primary purpose of the letter was to request and look to schedule another meeting with the president,” Sanders told reporters gathered for the briefing.
It’s unsurprising that we’re on track for a second meeting between the U.S. and North Korean leaders. In recent weeks, it’s become increasingly apparent that it would take precisely another tête-à-tête between them to prevent a total collapse of the diplomatic process, which had become bogged down over fundamental disagreements over the meaning of denuclearization.
North Korean propaganda has also continuously emphasized the persistence of the spirit behind the Singapore summit and, in particular, has not faulted Trump for ongoing difficulties in U.S.-North Korea talks.
For instance, in a statement following a fruitless visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang in early July, the North Korean Foreign Ministry released a statement that noted the following:
If both sides at the working level reneged on the new way agreed at the summit and returned to the old way, the epoch-making Singapore summit would be meaningless, which was held thanks to the determinations and wills of the two top leaders to open a new future for the interests of the two peoples and peace and security of the world. (Emphasis added.)
In a statement released in mid-August in the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea further noted that “President Trump who has a ‘dream’ about world peace, an epoch-making cause, has too many rivals.” This was a reference to the fact that Trump had, per one report, promised Kim Jong Un and his deputy, Kim Yong Chol, that the United States would agree to a declaration to end the Korean War — possibly by the end of July.
That concession didn’t come from the United States and was the likely cause of the cancellation of Pompeo’s late-August trip to North Korea, which was called off after Kim Yong Chol sent a letter to the United States. A second summit meeting will allow Kim and Trump to confer one-on-one again about the issue of a declaration to end the Korean War and Kim may sense that, in personal setting, the U.S. president may once again be willing to make a concession — unencumbered by his advisers.
The White House’s confirmation of interest in a new summit also comes a day after North Korea held a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its founding. Kim’s decision not to include any nuclear-capable assets in that parade paid off, with Trump personally acknowledging it on Twitter as a “a big and very positive statement.”
After all this, it’s increasingly clear that if this round of diplomacy between the United States and North Korea is to carry forward, it’ll take another meeting between Trump and Kim. Unfortunately, that meeting is still unlikely to produce a common understanding between the two sides on the meaning of denuclearization.