North Korea ‘already starting’ denuclearization, says Donald Trump

Donald Trump and Moon Jae In at a joint press conference last November. Republic of Korea  Flickr

Donald Trump and Moon Jae In at a joint press conference last November. Republic of Korea Flickr

Those priorities, from China's perspective, would be to ensure that Beijing is included in any in peace treaty talks and for creating an environment on the Korean Peninsula that will make it unnecessary for U.S. troops to remain. With Xi standing behind him, Kim could also believe that he would have a stronger negotiating position vis-a-vis the US.

There had been contact with North Korean officials since the summit, the US State Department said.

Trump and Kim, on June 12 signed a joint agreement, according to which Kim committed to "complete denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula" a while Trump pledged "security guarantees" to the North.

Also Friday, the USA and South Korea agreed to indefinitely suspend two exchange program training exercises, to support diplomatic negotiations with North Korea, the Pentagon said.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, played down the significance of suspending the Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises, saying they were relatively minor.

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Extension of punitive measures comes despite Trump previously saying Pyongyang no longer posed a "nuclear threat".

The backdoor could open further as the United States and the North proceed with denuclearization talks.

He said China would "as always play a constructive role" in that process. North Korea had long sought an end to the war games.

A bigger cause for concern is that Trump, who now seems to have a two-track approach - military and economic - toward what he had called "maximum pressure", may ease his position on economic sanctions, too. The two allies announced Monday the suspension of the Freedom Guardian drill slated for August in line with Trump's push for alleviating military pressure against the North.

Richard Downes, whose father went missing in the Korean War and is president of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs, was optimistic the Trump-Kim summit would lead to the return of more remains. United States officials, however, have cautioned that such actions are reversible.

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More than 36,000 US troops died in the war and 7,702 are missing in action, including 5,300 believed to be missing in the North, according to the agency.

As experts highlighted, it should be noted that Kim never mentioned CVID, only repeating a "phased, synchronized" approach toward denuclearization.

The Trump administration is expecting North Korea to return up to 200 sets of remains believed to be USA service members who died during the Korean War, four administration officials said earlier this week.

Dismantling the core elements of maximum pressure is something that should be done only after - or simultaneously at least - with the dismantlement of the North's nuclear capability.

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