Trump and a top North Korean official met at the White House to finalize details of a potential summit on dismantling the North's nuclear weapons program.
"President Donald J. Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "The President looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date."
|This AP photo shows a meeting between Kim Yong-chol (L), vice chairman of the central committee of North Korea`s ruling Workers` Party, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C) and US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun at the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington on Jan. 18, 2019. (AP-Yonhap)|
Vietnam is widely reported to be a top candidate site. Both the US and North Korea have embassies there.
Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee, earlier met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Dupont Circle Hotel, about 10 blocks north of the White House, where the visiting delegation is staying.
He is a close aide to the North Korean leader and last visited Washington in June. On that trip, he delivered a letter from Kim to Trump, which helped remove obstacles ahead of the first summit held in Singapore June 12.
Pompeo, Kim, and US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun posed for photographs before going into their meeting but did not respond to reporters' questions.
The State Department said later that the three had a "good discussion" on "efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un made at their summit in Singapore."
The first summit produced an agreement to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees for the regime.
The North insists the deal calls for sanctions relief and other corresponding US measures for the denuclearization steps it has taken so far, including its dismantling of a nuclear testing site.
But US Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that the North has yet to take "concrete steps" toward dismantling its nuclear weapons.
And the Pentagon said Thursday in its new missile defense review that North Korea's nuclear missiles continue to pose an "extraordinary threat" to the US.
A second summit would seek to break that impasse. Sanders indicated the US has not shifted its position.
"Look, we continue to make progress, we're continuing to have conversations," she told reporters at the White House. "The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea until we see fully and verified denuclearization."
Skeptics have warned that a second summit could serve to legitimize the North's possession of nuclear weapons unless the two sides hammer out the specific dismantlement steps before meeting.
Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert and director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, welcomed the announcement as a positive development considering the threats of war just over a year ago.
"Now the hard work begins," he said. "Both nations must now show at least some tangible benefits from their diplomatic efforts during a second summit, or risk their efforts being panned as nothing more than reality TV."
He called for an interim agreement.
"One possible deal would be the closing of North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility in exchange for partial sanctions relief or a peace declaration ending the Korean War," said Kazianis. "Such a deal allows both sides to come away with a much-needed win that can breathe new life into negotiations, allow everyone to claim an important victory and set up a viable path for future progress towards denuclearization."
Reuters reported that US and North Korean officials are also currently holding talks in Sweden, led by Biegun's counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui.
It's unclear if and when Biegun will join the talks in Sweden.
The last time Kim Yong-chol and Pompeo were scheduled to meet, in New York in November, the State Department abruptly announced the meeting's postponement at a day's notice, reportedly at the North's request.
Kim arrived in the US capital Thursday evening and is expected to return to Pyongyang via Beijing on Saturday.
It's the first time that a North Korean government official has flown directly into the US capital without a stopover in another US city.
The last senior North Korean official to stay in Washington overnight was the late Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, who visited Washington in October 2000 and met with then US President Bill Clinton.
The two countries fought each other in the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, and have no diplomatic relations with each other. (Yonhap)