Donald Trump has said he sees a “good chance” of reaching a deal with North Korea on denuclearisation, as senior US and South Korean officials met to discuss an upcoming second summit between the US president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation programme on Sunday, Trump said the date and venue of the upcoming summit had been agreed and would likely be announced before or during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
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“The meeting is set,” Trump said.
“He’s looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Trump-Kim summit is expected to take place at the end of February, with Vietnam seen as the most likely venue.
The two leaders’ first meeting last June in Singapore produced a vaguely worded document in which Kim pledged to work towards “the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”. But progress has since stalled with the two sides disagreeing over the interpretation of their agreement.
Dan Coats, the US director of national intelligence, told Congress this week that “North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities”.
That analysis runs against the position of the president, who once more argued in Sunday’s interview that “there’s also a very good chance that we will make a deal.”
“I think he’s also tired of going through what he’s going through,” said Trump, referring to the international sanctions pressing on Kim’s government.
“He has a chance to have North Korea be a tremendous economic behemoth,” Trump added. “He can’t do that with nuclear weapons and he can’t do that on the path they’re on now.”
“I like him. I get along with him great,” Trump, who once mocked the North Korean leader as “Rocket Man” on a suicide mission” said. “We have a fantastic chemistry.”
Asked about the possibility of the US pulling troops out of South Korea as it negotiates with Pyongyang, Trump doubled down on remarks by Stephen Biegun, the US envoy on North Korea who this week denied any such plans.
“We have 40,000 troops in South Korea, it’s very expensive. But I have no plans, I’ve never even discussed removing them,” Trump said.
On Sunday, Seoul’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Biegun and his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon held consultations about working-level US-North Korea talks before the summit.
South Korean media reported Biegun and his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol would likely meet at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom or in the North’s capital of Pyongyang early this week.
Separately in the Face the Nation interview, Trump praised China as having been “very helpful” with the North Korean issue, and went on to express optimism about the prospect of a deal with Beijing to end a US-China dispute which last year saw the world’s two largest economies slapping tariffs on more than $360bn in two-way trade.
“It looks like we’re doing very well with making a deal with China,” said Trump, who struck an upbeat note following two days of US-China trade talks at the White House this week.
The two sides face a March 1 deadline to avert a sharp increase in US duties on $200bn in Chinese exports.
“I don’t know that we’re going to make one, but we have a good chance,” Trump said.
“And if it is a deal it’s going to be a real deal. It’s not going to be a stopgap.”