American president also says he is ‘sure’ North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would ‘love’ to visit the United States.
US President Donald Trump said he would “probably not” be inclined to visit North Korea in the short-term, but declined to comment on a newspaper report that Kim Jong Un had invited him to visit Pyongyang.
“The relationship is very good but I don’t want to comment on that,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday when asked whether the North Korean leader had invited him to visit.
“I would do it… at some time in a later future, and depending on what happens I’m sure he’ll love coming to the United States also. But, no, I don’t think it’s ready for that. I think we have a ways to go yet,” he added.
A South Korean newspaper on Monday cited diplomatic sources as saying Kim had invited him to visit Pyongyang in a letter sent in August amid stalled denuclearisation talks.
Trump said he would “probably not” be inclined to visit North Korea in the short term, but did not rule out an eventual visit.
Kim, in the letter sent in the third week of August, spoke of his “willingness” for a third summit and extended an invitation for Trump to visit the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified source.
Trump on August 9 said he had received a “very beautiful letter” from Kim.
But US officials have not said anything about whether a second letter was received in August.
Trump and Kim have met three times since June last year to discuss ways to resolve a crisis over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes, but there has been little progress.
Their first two meetings were formal summits, the second of which, in Vietnam in February, broke down after the two leaders failed to narrow a gap between US demands for North Korean denuclearisation and a North Korean demand for relief from sanctions.
They met for a third time on June 30 in the Demilitarised Zone between the two Koreas and agreed to restart working-level talks but that has yet to happen..
Since the June meeting, North Korea has several times tested short-range missiles.
The US State Department and the North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
‘Threats and hurdles’
An unidentified director-general for US affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry said on Monday he hoped a “good meeting” with working-level US officials would take place “in a few weeks”.
But whether a meeting would lead to a “crisis or chance” was up to the United States, the official said, calling for a more flexible approach.
“The discussion of denuclearisation may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the official said in a statement carried by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.
North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, said last week Pyongyang was willing to have “comprehensive discussions” late this month.
Trump subsequently said he would be willing to meet Kim at some point this year.
Asked about the newspaper report, South Korea’s foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha said there were “detailed explanations about such a letter” but declined to elaborate.
Kang said it could be “too much to expect” that Trump and Kim would meet before any working-level talks.
“No agreement was reached between the two leaders in Hanoi even after working-level negotiations,” Kang told a parliamentary panel.
“For the sake of the success of another summit, their working-level teams should meet and have primary discussions on the outcome of the summit,” Kang said.