In a major breakthrough that could usher in a period of peace after a tumultuous end to the year 2017, North Korea has informed the United States through diplomatic channels that it is ready to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Although discussions are still in their preliminary stages, officials and intelligence officers from the U.S. State Department and North Korea have continued to undertake meetings using backdoor channels.
South Korea continues to play a key role in mediating the discussions and keep it on course for the planned meeting between the two countries.
Last month, South Korean officials paid a visit to Washington to extend the invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to discuss the possibility and conditions for denuclearization.
President Trump, who mockingly referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” for launching intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM’s) despite sanctions from the United Nations, immediately accepted the invitation.
Kim boasted that North Korea had developed ICBMs with the power to reach and decimate cities in the United States’ West Coast.
President Trump intimated that he would be available to meet with Kim by May or one month after the summit between North Korea and South Korea. North Korea has not confirmed its availability in May but a U.S. official working on the negotiations said Kim has maintained his interest in a dialogue:
“The U.S. has confirmed that Kim Jong-Un is willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
For their part, South Korea’s presidential Blue House remained optimistic about developments in a U.S. and North Korea dialogue:
“We are aware contact between North Korea and the United States is going well. We don’t know, however, up to what extend information is being shared between the two.”
South Korea disclosed that its National Security Office head, Chung Eui-yong would meet with Trump’s new National Security Adviser, John Bolton as early as April 10. Bolton is set to begin his term on April 9.
Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s nominee to assume Rex Tillerson’s position as Secretary of State will have his confirmation hearing on April 11. Both Bolton and Pompeo have maintained a cautious position on North Korea.
The key point in discussions should it take place, would be the definition and grounds for denuclearization. Trump wants North Korea to completely abandon its nuclear program.
However, North Korea may use the meeting to force the United States to remove its military presence from the Korean peninsula and Japan.