UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump praised North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday for his courage in taking steps to disarm, but said much work still had to be done and sanctions must remain in place on North Korea until it denuclearizes.
“The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction, nuclear testing has stopped, some military facilities are already being dismantled,” Trump said in his speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly.
“I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work remains to be done,” Trump said. “The sanctions will stay in place until denuclearization occurs.”
Trump’s remarks on North Korea were dramatically different from those in his speech last year at the U.N. assembly, when he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and mocked the North Korean leader as “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission”.
Trump held an unprecedented summit with Kim in Singapore in June which yielded a broad pledge by Kim to “work toward” denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
However, Kim’s commitments and actions so far have fallen far short of Washington’s demands for a complete inventory of North Korea’s weapons programs and irreversible steps to give up a nuclear arsenal that threatens the United States.
Trump has nevertheless heaped personal praise on Kim and expressed enthusiasm for a second summit.
On Monday, he said he expected this to be announced “pretty soon” but that the location had yet to be determined.
During a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the United Nations on Monday, Trump said Kim has been “really very open and terrific, frankly.”
“I think he wants to see something happen.”
Trump singled out Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, Moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping for their support over North Korea, in spite of some questions about the commitment of the latter two leaders to maintaining tough sanctions on Pyongyang.
At a meeting last week with Moon, Kim promised to dismantle a missile site and also a nuclear complex if the United States took “corresponding action.”
Moon told an event in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting that declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War would encourage North Korea to move further with denuclearization.
Moon said Kim had told him the “corresponding measures” he was seeking were security guarantees Trump pledged in Singapore and moves toward normalization of relations with Washington.
“I believe that setting a timetable for all these measures is a task for the second U.S.-North Korea summit,” Moon said.
He added that, once the North’s nuclear program is dismantled and sanctions are lifted, it will need the help of the South and other countries to rebuild its economy.
“I can tell you, the North Korean side has confirmed it’s willing to join the IMF and the World Bank and other international agencies to undertake the policy of opening up and reform,” Moon said.
Fox News said Moon told the network in an interview to be broadcast on Tuesday evening that Trump could meet Kim before the end of the year. Moon has said his administration aims to declare an end to the Korean War this year.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he hoped to travel to North Korea again before the end of the year to make final preparations for a second Trump-Kim summit.
Pompeo has proposed a meeting with North Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at the General Assembly this week. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said last week the two had agreed to meet but that the meeting could take place later.
Ri, who responded to Trump’s U.N. remarks last year by calling them “the sound of a dog barking” and warning that North Korea could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific, arrived back in New York on Tuesday afternoon.
He did not reply when asked on arrival at his hotel close to the United Nations when he would meet Pompeo.
Moon and Abe met on the sidelines of the U.N. assembly and the South Korean leader highlighted the importance of improved relations between Tokyo and Pyongyang to accelerate North Korean denuclearization, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
“I believe the normalization of North Korea-Japan relations is required in the process of establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula, and I will actively support and cooperate so a North Korea-Japan summit will be held,” Yonhap quoted Moon as telling Abe.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Jeff Mason and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and James Dalgleish