Pyongyang Still Silent on Proposed Kim-Trump Summit

By Patrick Goodenough | March 13, 2018 | 4:32 AM EDT

In a photo carried by a regime propaganda site, Kim Jong-un meets in Pyongyang on March 5, 2018 with a senior South Korean delegation. Also in the picture is the dictator’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, and vice chairman of the ruling party’s central committee, Gen. Kim Yong-chol. (Photo: Uriminzokkiri)

( – Five days after the White House confirmed that President Trump would accept an invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un, the regime he heads in Pyongyang is maintaining absolute silence on what would be an historic summit.

The Stalinist state’s media outlets, known for their hyperbolic and belligerent anti-U.S. rhetoric, have said nothing about the proposed first-ever meeting between an American president and North Korean leader.

South Korean government spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said Monday the regime may be keeping mum because it is working on how to present its position on both a U.S.-North Korea summit, and one proposed between the two Koreas.

“North Korea seems to need more time and is taking a cautious approach in setting its stance,” Baik told reporters.

The invitation to Trump emerged during a high-level visit to Pyongyang this month by a South Korean delegation led by national security advisor Chung Eui-yong.

Chung returned to Seoul with optimistic news: Kim had expressed willingness to abandon his nuclear ambitions in return for security guarantees, to hold “candid” talks with the U.S. on denuclearization and normalizing bilateral ties, and to refrain from carrying out any nuclear or ballistic missile tests while talks were underway.

Chung traveled to Washington last week to brief the White House, and announced afterwards that Kim had offered to meet with Trump, and that Trump had accepted the invitation to meet “by May.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders then confirmed that the president had accepted an invitation to meet with Kim “at a place and time to be determined.”

Despite the silence from Pyongyang, Sanders said Monday the White House “fully” expects that the meeting will take place.

“North Korea made several promises and if – we hope that they would stick to those promises and if so, the meeting will go on as planned,” she told a briefing. “We’re continuing to prepare on a number of levels.”

South Korean officials meanwhile are briefing the governments of China, Russia and Japan, the three other countries which were involved in the ultimately unsuccessful “six-party talks” that attempted to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear programs during the George W. Bush administration.

“Who knows what’s going to happen?” Trump said during a weekend rally in western Pennsylvania, referring to North Korea’s offer to meet and talk about denuclearization.

“I may leave fast, or we may sit down and make the greatest deal for the world, and for all of these countries – including, frankly, North Korea,” he said. “That’s what I hope happens.”


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters before wrapping up an Africa trip in Abuja, advised patience.

“Several steps will be necessary to agree on a location, agree on a scope of those discussions. It’s very early stages,” he said. “We’ve not heard anything directly back from North Korea, although we expect to hear something directly from them.”

“I would say just remain patient and we’ll see what happens.”

Tillerson declined to speculate on a possible location for a Trump-Kim meeting.

South Korean officials have floated the idea of holding it at Panmunjeom in the Demilitarized Zone, the setting for the signing of the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953.

Next month’s proposed summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in – the third ever between leaders of the two Koreas – is expected to be held at Panmunjeom, which is about 30 miles north of Seoul.

Other possible summit venues discussed in South Korean media reports include Jeju island, off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.

Sweden, which serves as the U.S. protecting power in the absence of diplomatic relations with North Korea, has offered to host it, and neutral Switzerland is another option.

A former president of Mongolia, a country that has cordial ties with both the U.S. and North Korea, suggested the summit be held in Ulaanbaatar.

Others have suggested Beijing, which played host to multiple rounds of six-party talks between 2003 and 2008.

Whether Kim will be willing to travel outside his country remains uncertain. He is not known to have left North Korea once since taking power in 2012, unlike his father Kim Jong-il who paid rare visits to Russia and China.

The White House has not ruled out the possibility of Trump traveling to Pyongyang, but says it’s “highly unlikely.”

Sue Mi Terry and Lisa Collins at the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued in an analysis that senior U.S. officials will probably counsel the president not to travel to the North Korean capital.

“The primary reason is ‘optics’ – if the world’s most powerful leader visits Pyongyang, this may internally and externally bolster the legitimacy and power of the North Korean leader,” they wrote. “Past visits of world leaders to Pyongyang have served as occasions for the regime to trumpet the superiority of the North Korean system and its leadership.”

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow