Dec 7, 2018, 4:03 AM ET

Trump moving ahead with second Kim summit despite working-level frustrations

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The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans for a second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un despite growing frustration among U.S. officials about the lack of progress on getting North Korea to denuclearize.

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Nearly six months after their first meeting in Singapore, the scramble towards another sit-down is a sign of how far apart the two sides are, with the U.S. demanding North Korea dismantle its nuclear weapons program entirely and take steps to do so before it wins sanctions relief and North Korea continuing to develop those weapons systems, something it never explicitly promised to halt.

It's precisely because things are stalemated that Trump wants to sit down with Kim again, National Security Advisor John Bolton said this week, but that has undermined his administration's ability to negotiate with the North Koreans and get them to move towards denuclearization, according to several analysts.

PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, arrive for a lunch at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang, North Korea, July 7, 2018.Andrew Harnik/AP, FILE
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, arrive for a lunch at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang, North Korea, July 7, 2018.

"It totally cuts Secretary of State Pompeo and the Special Representative Steve Biegun at the knees," said Jung Pak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "What is the incentive for North Korea to actually talk about the meat and potatoes of denuclearization with the Special Representative and the Secretary of State if the National Security Advisor has said, 'Nothing's happening, so we have to go straight to the top'?"

Pompeo was supposed to meet with his counterpart, North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator and former spy chief Kim Yong Chol, in New York in November before North Korea canceled the trip at the last minute. His Special Representative for North Korea Steve Biegun, who was tasked with leading working-level talks with North Korea, has yet to meet with North Koreans for his own meetings over three months after his appointment.

"They've clearly avoided having these working-level talks, which is where agreements are generally hammered out in advance of a summit," said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. "The North Koreans calculated that they can come up with better deal from talking to the president directly."

PHOTO: Andrew Kim, center, the head of the CIAs Korea Mission Center, arrives with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (not in picture) at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, July 6, 2018.Andrew Harnik/AFP/Getty Images
Andrew Kim, center, the head of the CIA's Korea Mission Center, arrives with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (not in picture) at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, July 6, 2018.

Pompeo's meeting with Kim Yong Chol still has not been rescheduled, sources tell ABC News. But CIA Korea Mission Chief Andy Kim – who has been Pompeo's right-hand man on this issue since Pompeo was CIA Director – was reportedly at the Demilitarized Zone on Monday to meet with North Korean counterparts, according to South Korean media.

It's unclear who attended for North Korea or what the aim was, but the two sides are still trying to settle on a date and location for a second summit. Bolton said Thursday the administration expects it to take place in January or February.

"All this summitry and diplomacy will continue because it works for North Korea," said Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "They're making progress without having to do anything on the denuclearization front... They're on their way of getting eventual international acceptance, North Korea, as a nuclear power, a responsible nuclear power."

PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a media availability with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at the State Department on May 11, 2018, in Washington.Alex Brandon/AP, FILE
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a media availability with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha at the State Department on May 11, 2018, in Washington.

While the U.S. has touted the talks and a lack of missile or nuclear tests as progress, North Korea has taken no steps to dismantle their existing nuclear weapons stockpiles – something analyst point out they never promised to do.

Instead, they have destroyed a missile engine test site and a nuclear test site, although they have not admitted international inspectors to verify that. Pompeo said after a trip to Pyongyang in early October that would happen "as soon as we get it logistically worked out," but two months later, there's been no public progress.

In the months since the Singapore summit, North Korea has also expanded a key long-range missile base known to the U.S. and worked on construction at a nearby newly discovered missile facility, according to a new analysis of satellite images by the Middlebury Institute at Monterrey's James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

PHOTO: North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un talks to South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a visit to Samjiyon guesthouse near Mount Paektu in Samjiyon in this picture taken Sept. 20, 2018, and released by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS.KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images
North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un talks to South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a visit to Samjiyon guesthouse near Mount Paektu in Samjiyon in this picture taken Sept. 20, 2018, and released by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS.

It's evidence that the regime continues to "mass-produce and deploy existing types of nuclear-armed missiles," according to the report's authors, Jeffrey Lewis and Dave Schmerler.

But it's not technically a violation of the declaration Trump and Kim signed at the Singapore summit because North Korea "never said it would" disarm, as Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tweeted Wednesday. Instead, they committed to the more vague term "denuclearization," just six months after Kim vowed to expand mass produce nuclear weapons in a New Year's Day speech -- a promise he is clearly keeping.

"If North Korea had made the decision to disarm, they would be behaving differently. They're perfectly capable of participating in working-level and presidential talks and demonstrating consistent, substantive progress," said Mount. "They are not doing that, which I think should tell the White House something about their intentions."

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  • TexWho

    Trump wants to meet with Kim because Kim is a smart cookie that knows how to stroke his ego.

  • Sal Monela

    Oh please.....spare us this spectacle Donnie boy. You have no chance of negotiating anything meaningful with any country. Face it; you are a huge failure. Just about everyone finds you to be an incompetent fool and want you to be gone so we can put some adults in charge.
    The footnote next to your name in history books will be 'fake POTUS '.

  • Eteamer

    Well, trump has to live somewhere.

  • Eteamer

    In South Korea they do eat dogs, it's on the menu. But in the North, the dogs eat you.

  • Jim Botto

    "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea." - Donald Trump after the last summit

    When Trump said he was a deal maker, I didn't realize he was talking about making up deals that never happened.

  • ruelph

    Trump just loves being played, again, he is the worst-ever president in U.S. history.

  • Stephen Bishop

    "The World can rest easier tonight"

  • Stephen Bishop

    "I really believe him"

  • Littlethugtrump

    The USA needs to be prepared for Trump striking out at the country through dealings with dictators, knowing full well his party will protect his sorry behind. People with his disorder strike out when cornered.

  • Stephen Bishop

    Well after all, the last one went so well.......

  • Slim Fugmolas

    I know that Donald Trump prays to Jesus every night and I know that God while guide his hands.

  • madison55

    He needs to stay in the White House. Every time he leaves we lose more integrity.

  • Life's a River

    Baby sumo meets orange sumo. They should meet in the Octagon in Sumo outfits, and winner take all. The pay per view sales would be astronomical.

  • Smedley

    I think the really sad part of all this is that Trump can't tell when he's being taken for a ride. He's convinced himself that he's actually accomplishing something.

  • arriba65

    WHY?? Because the first summit produced such excellent results? (sarc)

  • Truthful Opinion

    Moving ahead with a second summit because Trump needs a place to go after Mueller indicts the entire Trump crime syndicate. Kim will shelter them in one of his labor camps.

  • SPORTSFAN

    Moving ahead with a second one because the first one went so well......for Kim.

  • Sam Willughby

    Trump 2020

  • RichardBroderickJr

    Hey Don, under Obama the federal deficit was cut in half, but under you it is going back to a trillion dollar yearly federal deficit.

  • Bud Simpson

    Talk about a glutton for punishment. Kim Jong Un played Trump for a fool the first time around, now Bone Spur is going back for a second helping?

  • RichardBroderickJr

    Hey Don, under Obama the unemployment rate was turned around from spiking upward to a long term 7 year downward trend and a 3% reduction in unemployment, but under you the trend has simply continued and has only gone down 1%

  • RichardBroderickJr

    Hey Don, under Obama the DOW rose 149%, but under you it's gone up only 23%.

  • Erwin Schrodinger

    "The North Koreans calculated that they can come up with better deal from talking to the president directly."

    Yup... Kim can flatter him some more, and walk away with the legitimacy and visibility of a one on one summit with the president of the U.S. while at worst giving up nothing, but perhaps even getting more for that nothing. OF COURSE they want to talk to Trump.

  • BassPlyr73 Again

    Who knows, maybe it will break the stalemate? It looks like we don't have much to lose.

  • SFprogressive

    Trump is using this as food for his base, See, I am the great peace maker and only "I" can achieve this, Of course this makes Kim a GIANT hero in North Korea where the govt press will show him as the great negotiator as powerful as the American president, Both of these boys are phony,
    Now, the real question is " Will China just sit back and let Kim give away anything to the US during this prewar period between US and China? Watch that and see where it goes,

  • Alexthekay

    But how is Trump going to get his marching orders from Putin, in the current state of affairs?

  • Cammosutra

    President Turnip is being played. Again.

  • Prophet With Honor

    This will result in nothing. Time and money wasted.
    The two Koreas have made progress on their own, leave it alone.

  • JuPMod

    No doubt this will become the Kim and Trump Summit Photo-ops 2.0, and the only winner to come away will be Kim who gets what he wants while the US gets nothing. Building up arms is not a sign that NK cares about actually disarming their nukes. It is pretty much NK playing the 'game' again, as they always do.

  • Rubber Banned

    It's incredible to see Trump get it wrong every single time. He's never right. It's unbelievable. You'd think he'd just be right by accident once in a while.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Second Summit"? When was the first? That photo op for Kim and Donnie certainly shouldn't count as a summit if it only resulted in a one page treaty full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

  • Holmes

    Kim to Donald. "Check."

  • notagain

    Oh goodie. More huge letters to each other and another piece of paper saying we're gonna. big whoop.

  • TexasVulcan

    In the past, these kinds of high-level meetings would happen only after lower-level diplomats work out details and the President could actually go in and come out with a signed agreement. I don't understand this at all.

  • Up Pucker Danger

    Mr. Trump, let's have some tea and kimchi and then I'll introduce you to my barber. He's awesome.
    ~Kim

  • Benson Friars

    don needs the name of a SK reporter Kim wants to show up in the DMZ

  • RichardBroderickJr

    We have the stupidest leader in the world.

  • Gumby4417

    Trump is rewarding the North Korean regime for hiding development of underground missile building sites and failing to follow through with the vague pledges made before. And this is after announcing to the US citizens that there is no more threat of nuclear weapons from North Korea. All of this makes perfect sense, if one starts with the realization that Trump is clearly working for North Korea, not the USA.

  • TBC

    Trump is falling hook, line, and sinker for the old-school DPRK ploy; abruptly call for parley, make inconsequential concessions, receive substantial concessions from the West, feign outrage, and withdraw. They have done this many times before and will continue to do so in the future.

    What the Trump administration - and arguably the last 3 administrations - have failed to understand is that North Korea's entire global strategy revolves around a radical and all-encompassing self defense. They will never, ever denuclearize because, in their mind, the threat of nuclear retaliation both legitimizes their regime and guarantees them protection against any foreign intervention.

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    Kim is still building nukes. He learned he can compliment Trump and do whatever he wants.

  • Thomas

    The first step is to encourage the DPRK to rejoin the NPT so that the IAEA can resume monitoring

  • Citizen123

    What a fool Trump is! He is being played by North Korea.

  • Bluejay

    Has he decided on a new farm to give away for nothing in return? Needs a new picture for something?

    Is he thinking about Trump Tower NK and wants to find out what Kim would like in his free $50m penthouse?

  • Tegbessou Géléhéso

    What is Trump's motivation: 1. Does he truly want to bring an end to the Korean conflict and sign a treaty between the North and South? 2. Does he wants the Nobel Peace Prize noted on his list of accomplishments? 3. Both. 4. None of the above?