President Donald Trump is to hold a second summit with the leader of North Korea near the end of February to try to coax the North to give up its nuclear program.
The announcement came at the White House Friday after Trump met with a North Korean envoy.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump met for 90 minutes with Kim Yong Chol to discuss denuclearization and a second summit. Kim Yong Chol is a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief.
Sanders said the president looks forward to meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a place to be announced at a later date.
Trump had his first, historic meeting with Kim Jong Un last June in Singapore and reached a vague denuclearization agreement, but little tangible progress has been made since.
So far, no details have been publicly released about how denuclearization could occur.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the North Korean former spy chief met early Friday to resume efforts to arrange a second summit.
Trump has spoken several times of having a second summit early this year, and he’s exchanged multiple letters with Kim Jong Un despite little progress on the denuclearization agreement reached at their first meeting.
Since the first one, several private analysts have published reports detailing continuing North Korean development of nuclear and missile technology. A planned meeting between Pompeo and the envoy, North Korea’s former spy chief, in New York last November was called off abruptly. U.S. officials said at the time that North Korea had canceled the session.
The talks have stalled over North Korea's refusal to provide a detailed accounting of its nuclear and missile facilities that would be used by inspectors to verify any deal to dismantle them.
The North has demanded that the U.S. end harsh economic penalties and provide security guarantees before the North takes any steps beyond its initial suspension of nuclear and missile tests.
Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that the U.S. is still awaiting "concrete steps" by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region."
Trump has offered assurances that a second summit could allow the two leaders to seal a deal resolving the nuclear standoff and improving a relationship marked by decades of animosity and mistrust since the Korean War.
Kim Jong Un expressed frustration in an annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations. But on a visit to Beijing last week, he said North Korea would pursue a second summit "to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community," according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.
Kim's latest trip to China, his fourth since last year, came as the North's strongest ally has encouraged negotiations with the U.S. while at the same time arguing in favor of immediate easing of sanctions.
The U.S. and North Korea seemed close to war at points during 2017. The North staged a series of weapons tests that brought it closer to its nuclear goal of one day being able to target anywhere on the U.S. mainland. The two sides then turned to insulting each other: Trump called Kim "Little Rocket Man" and North Korea said Trump was a "dotard."
Kim abruptly turned to diplomacy with Seoul and Washington last year, possibly fearing economic harm from the penalties imposed over the weapons tests.
Still, even after the Singapore summit, the first between U.S. and North Korean leaders, there has been little real progress in nuclear disarmament.
Independent analysts are highly skeptical that North Korea will easily abandon a nuclear arsenal constructed in the face of deep poverty and probably seen by Kim as his only guarantee of his government’s survival.