President and secretary of state lower expectations as they prepare for meeting amid no sign of concessions from Pyongyang
Donald Trump and his most senior diplomat moved on Sunday to lower expectations for this week’s summit with North Korea , having previously overstated their progress in blocking its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
The president and secretary of state Mike Pompeo struck a more realistic tone as Trump and North Korean premier Kim Jong-un prepared to meet for a second time amid no sign of concessions from Pyongyang.
Trump said in a tweet he expected “a continuation of the progress” made at their first summit last year, adding simply: “Denuclearization?” He later said North Korea could become “one of the great economic powers” if it abandoned nuclear weapons.
Trump, Kim and senior officials from both countries are scheduled to meet in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Wednesday and Thursday. North Korean state media said on Sunday Kim left for Vietnam on Saturday aboard a special train, a journey that could take more than two days.
They will resume talks held in Singapore in June last year – the first between the two countries’ heads of state.
The Singapore talks concluded with no substantive agreement on North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons in return for relief from US sanctions.
Addressing the points of contention between the countries, Pompeo conceded on Sunday that the US had seen “progress on some, less so on others”.
The secretary of state also said further meetings could be needed.
“There may have to be another summit,” Pompeo told Fox News Sunday. “We may not get everything done this week. We hope we’ll make a substantial step along the way.”
Trump, who previously boasted of a whirlwind diplomatic romance with Kim and made wildly overstated claims of success, has also appeared to accept reality.
“I’m in no rush,” he said at the White House this week.
The president’s remarks followed downbeat testimony to Congress by Dan Coats, his director of national intelligence. Coats told senators US spies believed North Korea “will seek to retain its WMD capabilities” because Kim and his aides “ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival”.
Coats’s testimony was reported to have angered Trump, and led to reports that the president may fire the intelligence chief. Trump points to North Korea’s halting of nuclear missile testing and the dismantling of some facilities as signs of progress.
Pompeo confirmed on Sunday that North Korea continued to pose a nuclear threat to the US, directly contradicting a claim by Trump following the Singapore summit that it did not.
“Yes,” Pompeo said, when asked on CNN’s State of the Union if he thought North Korea remained a nuclear threat.
He then falsely said Trump had not claimed otherwise.
On returning to the US from the summit, Trump said in a tweet on 13 June : “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Reminded on Sunday of Trump’s remark, Pompeo said falsely: “That’s not what he said.”
Trump allies privately express concern that the president may offer Kim generous concessions to secure a headline-grabbing deal – and to distract from testimony to Congress his former legal fixer, Michael Cohen, is due to give while he is in Vietnam.