White House Says ‘We Will See’ as Kim Jong Un Hints at Talks

Updated on
  • Sanders says Trump committed to Pyongyang’s denuclearization
  • Diplomacy on sidelines of Winter Olympics closing ceremony
Bloomberg’s Ros Krasny reports on the U.S. government’s stance on North Korea.

The White House said “we will see” after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un indicated he may be willing to hold talks, while reaffirming the U.S. insistence on Pyongyang’s “verifiable” denuclearization.

“We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an emailed statement. “In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end.”

South Korea’s presidential office said on Sunday that Kim is willing to hold talks with the U.S.

North Korean delegates to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that ties on the Korean peninsula should develop, together with the relationship between Pyongyang and Washington.

North Korea’s delegation to the games included a diplomat in charge of nuclear talks. The U.S. delegation to the closing ceremony was led by Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, and included Allison Hooker, a National Security Council adviser for Korean issues.

While Ivanka Trump was sitting near a North Korean official in the stadium, she had no interaction with the delegation from Pyongyang, an administration official said.

Earlier this month, Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong attended the opening ceremony, and used the occasion to invite Moon for talks with her brother in Pyongyang. The North Korean delegation abruptly canceled a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence at the start of the Olympics earlier this month, the Trump administration said last week.

North Korean state media said Feb. 19 that the nation was “fully ready for both dialogue and war” and has repeatedly criticized joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises that are scheduled to start around April.

The Olympics have taken place during a period of relative calm on the peninsula. After a nuclear test and more than a dozen missile launches last year, North Korea hasn’t provoked since it fired an intercontinental ballistic missile in November.

The U.S. continues to insist that any talks are paired with a commitment by Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program.

“The United States, our Olympic Host the Republic of Korea, and the international community broadly agree that denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea,” Sanders, who was in South Korea to attend the Olympics, said in the statement.

The U.S. on Friday announced new sanctions against North Korea targeted at maritime trade, described by Trump as the “largest ever.”

— With assistance by Sam Kim, and Jihye Lee

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