The White House on Monday declared the ultimate goal of any negotiations that President Donald Trump has with North Korea is Pyongyang’s denuclearization.
“They’ve already started making some steps that we feel are progress,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “But we certainly know we have a long way to go and we’re going to continue pushing forward.”
Huckabee Sanders told reporters on the West Wing driveway that “we’re going to continue the maximum pressure campaign. We have to see real and concrete steps taken towards denuclearization, but I’m not going to get ahead of any negotiations the president’s going to have.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent announcement suspending nuclear weapons tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches is “certainly a step in the right direction,” declared Sanders, “but we’re going to need something a little bit more than that to start the relief of sanctions.”
Asked how the president defines denuclearization, Huckabee Sanders responded, “it means that North Korea doesn’t have or isn’t testing nuclear missiles.”
Trump, on Sunday, said the United States has given up nothing ahead of his planned summit with Kim, while Pyongyang has already curtailed its nuclear weapons development.
The U.S. leader said on Twitter, "We haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!"
But Trump acknowledged that the eventual outcome of his talks with Kim, which could occur in late May or early June, is uncertain. Pyongyang has yet to agree to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and, despite Trump's claim, has not agreed to the permanent denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
South Korea has said that the North has expressed interest in doing away with its nuclear weapons.
‘Long way from conclusion’
"We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t - only time will tell," Trump said, "But the work I am doing now should have been done a long time ago!"
Trump, as is often the case, offered his thoughts after hearing television news commentary he didn't like - this time from Chuck Todd, the host of NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ public affairs program.
"Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing," tweeted Trump.
Todd said of Kim's overtures ahead of the summit, “He seems to be giving very little but making it seem like he’s giving a lot."
The television newsman added that "there’s not many preconditions the United States is asking for. So far in this potential summit, North Koreans have gotten a lot out of it. What has the United States gotten yet? We don’t have a release of any of those Americans that they held captive, we don’t have a pledge of denuclearization as the ultimate goal. There’s a lot of things they are not promising that is raising some red flags.”
Before the planned summit with Trump, for which no location or date has been determined, Kim is set to meet Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a Korean border village.
South Korea on Monday halted its broadcasts of propaganda messages and pop music across the border. South Korea's Defense Ministry said in a statement it hopes the move will help contribute to creating peace between the two countries.
Neither South Korea nor the United States has diplomatic relations with North Korea.
A state of war technically persists on the peninsula. Active combat in the 37-month long Korean War ended with an armistice in 1953. South Korea was not a signatory.
Moon’s government says Seoul hopes to resolve the 65-year impasse.
“The signing of a peace treaty must be pursued after an end to the war is declared,” Moon told media representatives at the presidential Blue House last Thursday.
Ken Bredemeier contributed to this story