WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday he will likely announce the site and date of a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the State of the Union address on Tuesday.
"They very much want the meeting," Trump told reporters, saying his administration has made "tremendous progress" toward reining in the North's nuclear ambitions. The summit is expected to take place around the end of February.
The president said that before he took office in January 2017, "it looked like we were going to war with North Korea. Now, there's no missile testing. There's no rocket testing, there's no nuclear testing. We got back our prisoners, our hostages. We're getting back our remains."
Trump has long contended that his outreach to Kim and their initial summit in June in Singapore have put the U.S. and North Korea on the path to peace. But his list of concrete achievements has not grown in the months since that meeting, and his own intelligence chiefs believe there is little likelihood Kim will voluntarily give up his nuclear weapons or missiles capable of carrying them.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress on Tuesday that the government's intelligence assessment does not support the idea that Kim will eliminate his nuclear weapons or the capacity for building more.
A skeptical Trump tweeted in response: "Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"
Private analysts, in several reports in the past four months, have drawn on commercial satellite imagery to determine that the North is continuing to develop its nuclear and missile technology despite the test suspension.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has led the diplomatic effort with North Korea, is sending a team to Asia to make preparations for the second Trump-Kim summit. He has not identified a venue for the meeting. Vietnam has been considered, along with Thailand, Hawaii and Singapore.
Pompeo's point man on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, planned to travel to South Korea this weekend. He also was expected to see North Korean officials "to discuss next steps to advance our objective of the final fully verified denuclearization of North Korea," according to the State Department.
In a speech Thursday at Stanford University, Biegun said the administration was ready to move "simultaneously and in parallel" with the North in reaching the goal. Biegun also credited the North Korean leader with agreeing to dismantle two military installations and open them to outside inspections
"While these sites are not critical parts of current North Korean missile or nuclear programs, after an interlude of 10 years in which no international inspections of any kind have occurred, they represent a step in the right direction for our two countries to renew cooperation on the steps necessary to give confidence to the process of denuclearization," he said.
Still, Biegun said there must be a "dismantlement and destruction of North Korea's plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities."
Biegun stressed that denuclearization could not happen without the North first presenting a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities so that dismantling them under an eventual deal can be verified.
North Korea also must agree to have disarmament experts inspect its facilities to confirm they are no longer usable, he said.
Such a declaration and access for inspectors has been a sticking point in the past. The North has balked at submitting an accounting of its sites and demanded that the U.S. ease sanctions before it makes any concessions.
The U.S. has said repeatedly that sanctions will stay in place until denuclearization is complete, although it has held open the option of taking other confidence-building measures, including potential security guarantees.
Elias reported from Palo Alto, Calif. Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed from Washington.