US President Donald Trump has given his blessing to the upcoming inter-Korean peace talks seeking an end to the war on the Korean Peninsula.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end of the war. People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended. It’s going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war … They do have my blessing to discuss that,” Trump said on Tuesday as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un along with senior officials from the two Koreas are to meet in a summit on April 27.
The summit is set to take place at the South’s Peace House in the border truce village of Panmunjom.
Officials from North and South Korea held a preliminary meeting on April 5 to discuss protocol, security, and media coverage issues.
Inter-Korean relations have improved following the Winter Olympics, held in the South in February, in which the North also participated, starting a rapprochement.
The two neighbors have been separated by a heavily-militarized border since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula were running high last year. Pyongyang advanced its weapons program as the US took an increasingly war-like posture toward North Korea. But Kim expressed sudden interest in the resolution of disagreements with the South on New Year’s Day, and a series of overtures began.
US having ‘direct talks’ with North Korea about summit
Also on Tuesday, Trump revealed that Washington was having direct talks at “extremely high levels” with Pyongyang to try to set up a summit between him and the North Korean leader.
“We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea. And I really believe this allows good will, that good things are happening. We’ll see what happens … because ultimately it’s the end result that counts, not the fact that we’re thinking about having a meeting, or having a meeting,” Trump said as he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago.
The US president also said it was possible that diplomatic efforts to arrange a summit between Washington and Pyongyang would fall short.
“It’s possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings and we’ll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken,” he said.
Last month, Trump unexpectedly said a meeting was being planned between him and Kim “by May.” He made the assertion almost immediately after two South Korean officials who had earlier met the North Korean leader briefed Trump in Washington.
During his remarks on Tuesday, the US president announced that the White House officials were looking at five different locations for a late-May or early-June meeting with Kim, ruling out speculations that any of those locations were in the United States.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had traveled to North Korea as part of a “top-secret visit” earlier this month and met with the North Korean leader.
Pompeo took only intelligence officials with him on the trip, no White House or State Department officials, according to the paper citing two unnamed sources.
The purpose of Pompeo’s confidential trip was to lay the groundwork for upcoming discussions between Trump and Kim.
The CIA and the White House declined to comment on news of the Pompeo’s visit.
Tensions have escalated between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs since Trump warned to “totally destroy” North Korea during a speech to the latest UN General Assembly.
The US administration claims it prefers a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but it also says that all options are on the table, including military ones.
Washington insists that any future talks should be aimed at North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons, something Pyongyang rejects.
North Korea has been under a raft of crippling UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests as well as multiple rocket and missile launches. Pyongyang firmly defends its weapons programs as a deterrent against potential aggression by the US and its regional allies, including South Korea.