WASHINGTON, January 18, 2019 — After a 90-minute meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s former top spy, the White House announced on Friday that Trump will soon hold a second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un at a to-be-determined site.
“President Donald J. Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and [a] half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
“The President looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date.”
The manner of Friday’s announcement bore some similarities to the way in which the White House broke the news last year of Trump and Kim’s historical first meeting last year. Not only did both announcements occur by way of Oval Office meetings between Trump and Kim Yong Chol, but they were also relative surprises to White House staff and reporters alike.
President Trump’s public schedule for Friday only had him scheduled to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. That changed, however, when Kim Yong Chol arrived at the White House accompanied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Oval Office meeting was so last-minute that word of it only came at 12:08 p.m., seven minutes before the 12:15 pm start time listed in a statement Sanders emailed to reporters.
At 2:25 p.m., reporters’ phones lit up once more, this time with the announcement that another summit would take place at the end of next month.
A second summit with Kim Jong Un would allow Trump to return to an aspect of the presidency in which he revels — a trip abroad there he can be feted by another leader, and with whom he can stage a signing ceremony for some initiative or another. The entire spectacle, of course, is broadcast around the world.
Trump appeared to revel in the pomp and circumstance of last June’s Singapore summit, during which he became the first American president to meet one-on-one with a North Korean head of state.
After several private and bilateral meetings, Trump and Kim exchanged signatures on what Trump called a “historic agreement,” a joint declaration of sorts, although the agreement did not include any new commitments regarding North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear and ballistic missile program.
The nation of North Korea, formerly-regarded as a rouge nation, did howeverpublicly decommission a nuclear test facility shortly after the summit.
American officials have been unable to verify whether the decommissioning was more than a display for the international media who’d been invited for the occasion, or whether it was done because the facility had reached the end of its useful life.
Still, Trump touted the summit with Kim – and the document the two of them had signed – as proof that he’d solved the North Korea problem, a problem of which his predecessor Barack Obama had warned would be most the pressing of his presidency.
Shortly after his return from the Singapore summit, Trump took to Twitter to declare that there was “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” and since then, the White House has taken great pains to downplay numerous reports showing that the North has continued to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal and enrichment capability.
Asked why Americans should believe anything from the mouth of any North Korean official given the lack of follow-through on last year’s promises, Sanders said the Trump administration had “continued to make progress” through continued conversations with Pyongyang, but stressed that U.S. sanctions would remain in place until the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was full and verified.
“We’ve had very good steps and good faith from the North Korean,” Sanders added, citing Pyongyang’s release of several American hostages last spring — a development which was used to justify the two leaders’ first meeting.