U.S. not yet talking about ‘negotiations’ with N.K.: official

SEOUL, The United States is not talking about "negotiations" at this point in seeking an unprecedented summit with North Korea, a senior U.S. official said Friday, adding that it is too early to discuss how to inspect or verify the reclusive state's nuclear program.

U.S. President Donald Trump has accepted a surprise invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and that meeting will likely take place by May to discuss achieving permanent denuclearization.

South Korea's national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, delivered the invitation during his briefing Thursday (local time) on the outcome of his trip to Pyongyang early this week as President Moon Jae-in's special envoy.

"At this point we're not even talking about negotiations," the official told reporters during a press call after the announcement was made. "What we're talking about is an invitation by the leader of North Korea to meet face to face with the President of the United States. The President has accepted that invitation."

It was in response to a question as to whether inspections of nuclear facilities in the North would be included in agenda items during the planned summit between Trump and Kim.

"Obviously, verification goes hand in hand with any kind of acceptable deal for the permanent denuclearization of North Korea, and we will settle for nothing less than that outcome," he said. "It's the outcome that the entire world expects, as exemplified under all those U.N. Security Council resolutions."

He also emphasized that President Trump has been coordinating "very closely" with South Korea throughout the whole process.

Asked why the U.S. does not start lower-level contact with the North and about speculation that there might be some reasons or undisclosed deal that give Trump confidence to hold a summit right away, the official said that the president has said that he would take "approaches very, very different from past approaches and past presidents."

"That couldn't be better exemplified than it is in his North Korea policy. Literally, going back to 1992, the United States has engaged in direct talks at low levels with the North Koreans, and I think that history speaks for itself," he said.

He reaffirmed the president's commitment to keeping the U.S.' maximum pressure campaign in place to avoid making the same mistakes that previous governments made in the past.

"If we look at the history of these negotiations that took place under prior administrations, they have often led to the relinquishing of pressure. They have often led to concessions being made to North Korea in return for talks," he said. "President Trump has been very clear from the beginning that he is not prepared to reward North Korea in exchange for talks."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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