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Trump: Fourth Kim Meeting Possible

FILE - U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they meet at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have met three times since June 2018. Trump says round four could soon happen. But Korea watchers are more focused on long-delayed working-level talks.

Donald Trump says he may hold a fourth meeting with Kim Jong Un by the end of the year.

“They want to meet. They’d like to meet. I think it’s something that will happen,” he said.

North Korea has already offered working-level talks by the end of the month, raising hopes of a more substantive phase of negotiations. The departure of Trump’s hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton may help, says former U.S. official Dennis Wilder.

“I think the North Koreans will be happy to see John Bolton no longer as part of the president’s team. … John Bolton clearly never was on board with the president’s policies on Korea,” Wilder said.

Bolton famously referred to the “Libya model” for North Korea’s denuclearization. An unnerving image for Pyongyang, as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed by U.S.-backed rebels after giving up his nuclear program.

“You just take a look at what happened with Gadhafi,” Trump said. “That was not a good statement to make and it set us back.”

Despite Bolton’s departure, North Korea isn’t likely to make the talks easy. This week the North conducted its 10th round of short-range missile launches since May.

If talks do eventually restart, the format they take will be crucial. That’s because if the U.S. and North Korea are to make actual progress on a nuclear agreement, it will take nuclear experts — a meeting much more substantive than Kim and Trump shaking hands.