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White House will make sure Trump ‘actually gets something’ from Kim meeting

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Donald Trump has tweeted a "deal with North Korea is very much in the making", but the White House has said the President will not meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un unless Pyongyang takes "concrete actions".

Key points:

  • Time and place for historical US, North Korea meeting yet to be decided
  • Foreign policy analysts, some politicians warn against a meeting without preconditions
  • White House says meeting won't happen without 'concrete steps' from North Korea

"The President will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions take place by North Korea, so the president will actually be getting something," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a news briefing.

Ms Sanders was responding to criticism the US is getting nothing in exchange for agreeing to a historic face-to-face summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.

Ms Sanders did not specify what actions North Korea needed to take, and a White House official later said she was not intending to set new conditions for talks with Mr Kim.

External Link: Tweet from Donald Trump: "The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World. Time and place to be determined."

North Korea's Government had yet to formally comment on its invitation to Mr Trump.

South Korea said the President agreed to meet Mr Kim by May, but Ms Sanders said no time and place had been set.

Mr Trump did not clear up confusion about preconditions or timing on Twitter, but said the possible summit was "very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World".

The United States has long said it wanted any talks to aim at Pyongyang abandoning its nuclear weapons and missile programs, but Friday's announcement of a meeting was unexpected.

South Korea's top security adviser makes the announcement at the White House

The announcement of the summit, made by South Korean national security director Chung Eui-yong, marked a dramatic turnaround after a year of escalating tensions and insults between the two leaders.

Mr Trump has derided Mr Kim as a "maniac", referred to him as "little rocket man" and threatened in a speech last year to "totally destroy" North Korea, a country of 26 million people, if it attacked the United States or one of its allies.

Mr Kim responded by calling Mr Trump a "mentally deranged US dotard".

But tension eased around last month's Winter Olympics in South Korea, laying the groundwork for what would be the first meeting between leaders from North Korea and the United States, and the biggest foreign policy gamble for Mr Trump since he took office in January last year.

Concerns of 'photo op' meeting without any returns

Some politicians and foreign policy experts voiced scepticism about agreeing to a summit without preparations by lower-level officials, particularly given the lack of trust between the two sides.

North Korea is also holding three American citizens for what Washington views as political reasons.

"A presidential visit is really the highest coin in the realm in diplomacy circles," said Bruce Klingner, a Korea expert at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation.

He added that Mr Trump "seemed to spend it without getting anything in return, not even the release of the three US captives".

Responding to criticism from reporters that Mr Trump had agreed to a meeting without preconditions, Ms Sanders said North Korea has made promises to denuclearise, stop its nuclear and missile testing and allow joint US-South Korean military exercises.

But questions remained over exactly what North Korea means by "denuclearise", and what the US might be risking with a highly publicised summit.

Evans Revere, a former senior State Department official experienced in negotiating with North Korea, warned there was a disconnect between how the North and the US describe "denuclearisation" of the divided Korean Peninsula.

He said for the US it referred to North Korea giving up its nukes and for the North it also meant removing the threat of American forces and US nuclear deterrents in South Korea.

"The Administration must go into any meeting with a plan to ensure that negotiations with Kim Jong-un produce real results," US senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

"Not a photo op that lends legitimacy to North Korea's murderous regime."

AP/ Reuters

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