Kim makes first official mention of US summit

Trump expects meeting with DPRK top leader to be held in May or early June

Kim Jong-un, top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has acknowledged the prospect of talks with the United States, state media reported on Tuesday, in his first official mention of dialogue with Washington ahead of a planned summit with US President Donald Trump.

Trump agreed last month to the summit with the DPRK leader but with no specific dates or venue set. He said on Monday that he expected to meet Kim in May or early June.

“We’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June, and I think there will be great respect paid by both parties,” he told a cabinet meeting, saying that he hoped the two sides would be able to make a deal on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump also said the US has been in touch with the DPRK, adding that “hopefully it will be a relationship that will be much different from how it has been for many, many years”, referring to US tensions with the DPRK.

The summit would be the first between a sitting US president and a DPRK top leader.

On Monday, Kim discussed the “the prospect of the DPRK-US dialogue” with party officials, the state KCNA news agency said.

He delivered a report “on the development of the recent situation on the Korean Peninsula”, including the separate summit with the Republic of Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, to be held later this month, it said.

In a growing rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula, Kim was scheduled to meet Moon for the inter-Korean summit on April 27.

The DPRK had remained publicly silent for weeks after its leader’s invitation to talks was first delivered to Trump by ROK officials in Washington.

Kim’s remarks on Monday broke that public silence, although he did not specifically refer to a summit with Trump. It followed media reports that DPRK officials have privately told their US counterparts that Pyongyang is ready to discuss denuclearization.

At Pyongyang metro stations on Tuesday, commuters crowded around newspaper stands displaying the pages of the Rodong Sinmun, the official organ of the ruling Workers’ Party, to read the news.

The paper filled its front page with KCNA’s report, along with pictures of Kim chairing the Politburo meeting.

Detailed coverage of Monday’s meeting is unusual and could indicate Kim’s desire to project an image of a functioning political system to the world, said Professor Yang Moo-jin at the University of North Korean Studies.

Stunning turnaround

Pyongyang’s diplomatic activity marks a stunning turnaround after a year of high tensions which saw the DPRK carry out nuclear and missile tests, triggering a fiery war of words with Trump.

Kim sent a high-profile delegation to the Winter Games in the ROK in February, before making his international debut last month with a visit to Beijing – his first overseas trip since taking power in 2011.

Meanwhile, the DPRK’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho arrived in Moscow on Monday after stopping in Beijing. He also paid a visit last month to Sweden, which acts as a diplomatic go-between for Washington and Pyongyang.