OSAKA, Japan – North Korea said on Saturday the invitation to its leader, Kim Jong-un, from United States President Donald Trump to meet this weekend in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas was a “very interesting suggestion.”
“We see it as a very interesting suggestion, but we have not received an official proposal in this regard,” said Pyongyang’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, according to the official (North) Korean Central News Agency.
The statement added that a meeting “would serve as another meaningful occasion in further deepening the personal relations between the two leaders and advancing the bilateral relations.”
Trump’s unexpected offer was made in a tweet early Saturday morning from the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, just hours ahead of his trip to Seoul, South Korea, to visit President Moon Jae-in.
“After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will be leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon),” Trump tweeted.
“While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” Trump added.
It was long rumored that Trump was scheduled to visit the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea during his visit to Seoul this Saturday and Sunday, but the White House had assured that the president would not meet Kim.
A South Korea president’s office spokesperson said later in a brief statement to media that nothing on Trump and Kim meeting had been decided, and Seoul’s position remained the same with respect to the desire to maintain dialog with North Korea.
During the closing session of the G20 summit, Trump reminded Moon of his offer to meet Kim, to which Moon responded by saying they would try for it together.
Trump has held two summits with the North Korean leader, the first a year ago in Singapore, where both pledged to “work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” according to a joint communique released after the meeting.
During the second summit between held at the end of February in Hanoi, Vietnam, the pair failed to agree on how the denuclearization process should be carried out.
Pyongyang advocates a gradual process accompanied by the progressive lifting of sanctions, while Washington maintains that it will only eliminate sanctions when Kim ends and dismantles its nuclear program, missiles and chemical and biological weapons.
Since the Hanoi summit, contact between teams of both countries have been minimal and North Korea has hardened its rhetoric towards the US and also South Korea.
In May, the North Korean regime tested several short-range ballistic missiles, but the White House was cautious in its reaction in order not to upset the denuclearization dialog.
In recent weeks, as Trump’s trip to Japan and South Korea approached, the president has resumed his diplomacy towards Kim. Both sides exchanged letters this month, the most recent of which was last week when the US leader said that Kim had congratulated him on his 73rd birthday.
Trump will arrive in Seoul on Saturday afternoon, where he plans to stay for 24 hours to meet with Moon and discuss the North Korean situation.
The US president wanted to visit the Korean demilitarized zone during his first visit to South Korea in 2017, but ultimately he could not do so due to bad weather.