White House: No DPRK meeting without “concern actions”

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People watch a television news report showing pictures of US President Donald Trump (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul on March 9, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / Jung Yeon-je)

The White House said it’s working on details for an historic meeting between the U.S. President and the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The United States confirmed President Trump is expected to meet Kim Jong-Un by May. But Washington said Pyongyang needs to take certain steps before then.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

The Trump administration said it has started working on details for a historic meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-Un.

On Friday, officials defended the surprise decision to accept the invitation, delivered just 24 hours earlier by a visiting South Korean delegation.

“A time and place have not yet been determined,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. “We’ll certainly make those announcements when more decisions and more information is available on that front.”

The White House took credit for the offer, saying the U.S. president’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against Pyongyang made the difference.

“We’re not going to step back or make any changes to that,” Sanders said. “We’re going to continue in that effort and we’re not going to have this meeting take place until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea.”

According to administration officials, that includes a promise by Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear weapons program, to halt all missile tests, and to take steps toward denuclearization. But critics warn: promises are just words.

“A presidential visit is really the highest coin in the realm in diplomacy circles,” Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Conservative think-tank in Washington, DC said. “The president seemed to spend it without getting anything in return.”

On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers were warning against the president’s go-it-alone approach.

“We need to have a full-of-government preparation,” said Mazie Hirono, a Democratic U.S. Senator from Hawaii. “I hope that we do not have what I would characterize as the ‘Tuesday Trump,’ who goes in and has these one-on-one talks with Kim Jong Un, promises all kinds of things, and then on Thursday, he walks back.”

The Americans insist they made no concessions to the DPRK. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the meeting would be talks, not a negotiation.

“President Trump has said for some time that he’d be open to talks and he’d willingly meet with Kim Jong Un when conditions were right and the time was right,” Tillerson said.

But his State Department is short on top diplomats on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S.’s DPRK envoy recently retired, reportedly frustrated by the president. And the U.S. still doesn’t have an ambassador to South Korea. Trump has yet to appoint one.

No sitting U.S. President has ever met face-to-face with a DPRK leader. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did so, separately, after they left office. If this meeting happens, when this meeting happens, and where this meeting happens will all be crucial.

“It really is like a high risk game of poker,” Klingner said. “You may win it all or you may not.”

Read out of the call between Chinese Pres. Xi and US Pres. Trump