By Kevin Bohn
President Donald Trump said in his speech to the mostly joke-filled Gridiron Club Dinner on Saturday night that North Korea had recently reached out about possible talks.
“They called up a couple of days ago and said, ‘We would like to talk,'” Trump said. “And I said, ‘So would we, but you have to de-nuke. You have to de-nuke.’ So let’s see what happens. Let’s see what happens.”
The US has said it would be willing to meet with North Korea but has always insisted that Pyongyang eventually abandon its nuclear weapons program as part of any talks.
Trump later said “maybe positive things are happening. I hope that’s true. … I say that in all seriousness. I hope that’s true. And we’re soon going to know. We will be meeting, and we will see if anything positive happens. It’s been a long time. It’s a problem that should have been fixed a long time ago, not now.”
White House officials did not respond to a request for clarification. Trump made the remarks while delivering a series of jokes poking fun at himself, his administration and others at the annual dinner.
Last month, it was revealed Vice President Mike Pence was set to meet with North Korean officials, including Kim Jong Un’s sister, during their visits to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. But the North Koreans pulled out of the planned session before it could happen. Pence’s office said it believed the abrupt cancellation was a sign that US attempts to exert pressure on the regime were working.
“North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which could have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics,” said Nick Ayers, Pence’s chief of staff.
Trump had signed off on the decision to meet, with the caveat that the United States wouldn’t back off its stated demand that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons.
The latest US intelligence assessment about North Korea’s nuclear ballistic missile program judges that Kim’s regime has continued to make progress during the last few months on improving guidance of their missiles, an administration official with knowledge of the information told CNN’s Barbara Starr. The official did point out that the regime is still struggling with the technical challenge of ensuring a warhead can re-enter the earth’s atmosphere.
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