A television screen showing an image of Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, center, during a news broadcast on North Korea’s nuclear test in Busan, South Korea. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

North Korea and China Back Second Trump-Kim Summit

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South Korea’s Moon Jae-in said a second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un was imminent, even as the North Korean leader aired new complaints about his “difficulties” with the U.S.

The South Korean president told reporters Thursday that he expected the next summit to produce a “detailed agreement” on disarmament steps by North Korea and corresponding measures by the U.S. He said Kim’s trip to China this week was an indication that the North Korean leader was preparing for another tête-à-tête with the U.S. president.

“Kim’s China visit is a sign that a second summit between Trump and Kim is nearing,” Moon said during an annual news conference in Seoul to start the year. “It is necessary first for North Korea to take more bold measures for substantive denuclearization in order to resolve the sanctions quickly.”

North Korea and China Back Second Trump-Kim Summit

The remarks by Moon, who has sought to bridge the divide between the U.S. and North Korea, came about two hours after Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued statements expressing support for another meeting with Trump. Still, North Korean state media hinted at continued frustration with the U.S., saying the former Cold War allies discussed difficulties and concerns with the nuclear talks and improving relations with the U.S.

Nuclear Dispute

Negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have sputtered since Kim and Trump signed an agreement in June to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” without defining the phrase or setting any deadlines. Kim’s visit to China -- his fourth in less than a year -- served as a reminder to Trump that North Korea has other options for diplomatic support.

Xi told Kim he intended to visit Pyongyang, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, which would make him the first sitting Chinese president to do so since 2005. The exchange bolstered North Korea’s improving relations with its larger and more powerful neighbor, which provides it with crucial trade and security support.

North Korea and China Back Second Trump-Kim Summit

Kim could be looking to leverage his relationship with Xi, who Trump has accused of relaxing pressure on North Korea, to push the U.S. to make concessions in nuclear talks. The North Korean leader said in his New Year’s address that he might take a “new path” in negotiations if Trump didn’t ease trade, travel and investment restrictions.

Second Summit

Seven months after Trump shook hands with Kim, the U.S. and North Korea continue to argue over what the leaders agreed to do. Washington asserts Kim accepted the “final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” while Pyongyang says the deal implied a step-by-step approach where its actions were simultaneously met by U.S. responses.

Trump has pressed ahead with a second summit to resolve the dispute. The U.S. leader said earlier this week that a date would be announced “in the not-too-distant future.”

“Kim’s basically forecasting uncertainty ahead, implying that things have not progressed with the U.S. on his terms the way he wanted in the order of the Singapore statement of new relations and a peace regime first,” said Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow in Seoul for the Center for a New American Security.

The North Korean leader said he would work toward achieving results in talks with Trump, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday. Xi said he supported North Korea’s denuclearization efforts and added that there was an international consensus to continue dialogue.

Beijing Camaraderie

The Xinhua report described Kim’s meeting with Xi, which was held on what was believed to be the North Korean leader’s 35th birthday, as being held with a “cordial and friendly atmosphere.” The two men, who had never met before last year, customarily referred to each other as “comrade” and committed to future exchanges.

“I am willing to work with Comrade Chairman to make sound efforts to guide the future development of China-DPRK relationship,” Xi said, referring to North Korea’s formal name.

Kim thanked Xi “for taking time from a busy schedule” to meet him.

“Under the utmost care of Comrade General Secretary, the DPRK-China relations last year were elevated to a new height and a new chapter was written,” Kim said.

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