US officials: Trump-Kim meeting ‘not just theater’

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US officials on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying the move was not just for show and not a gift to Pyongyang.

“President Trump isn’t doing this for theater. He’s going to solve a problem,” said Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo on the “Fox News Sunday” programme.

The US expects North Korea to halt all nuclear and missile testing in advance of any meeting, Mr Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Sunday news shows.

The goal of the meeting remains denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, something Kim has agreed to discuss, they said. Mr Pompeo said US military exercises in the region would continue in the lead-up to the talks.

The Republican president agreed on Thursday to accept an invitation from the North Korean leader to meet by May after months of escalating tensions over Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear and missile programmes.

Mr Trump would become the first sitting US president to meet with a leader of the reclusive country. The two men would face each other after a public volley of insults, with Mr Trump calling Mr Kim “Little Rocket Man” and Mr Kim referring to Mr Trump as a “dotard.”

No venue or date for the meeting has been determined, but Mr Trump’s prompt acceptance set off a flurry of activity. The South Korean officials who carried Mr Kim’s invitation to Washington will split up to visit the leaders of China and Japan this week to update them on the talks, a South Korean presidential official said on Sunday.

Many Democrats as well as Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans said the US should have demanded concessions before granting North Korea a meeting.

Mr Pompeo and Mr Mnuchin said the US would make no concessions and would keep the pressure on North Korea by maintaining economic sanctions and a strong US defense posture before the meeting.

They also dismissed criticism that Mr Trump’s decision to meet elevated the North Korean leader on an international stage.

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