President Donald Trump said he doesn’t expect to lift sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s regime, as he prepares for a summit with the North Korean leader this week on American demands that Pyongyang end its nuclear program.
“I’m not pushing for speed, but we’re not removing the sanctions,” Trump told U.S. governors gathered at the White House on Sunday evening. He didn’t elaborate.
Kim has made little secret that his key goal for the Feb. 27-28 meeting in Hanoi is to ease sanctions that a choking North Korea’s faltering economy. Trump fed expectations of relief with comments Wednesday that he would “love to be able to” lift sanctions, provided he got “something that’s meaningful.”
The Trump administration had previously insisted sanctions would remain in place until the “final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.”
North Korea faces a complex web of penalties piled on by the United Nations, U.S. and American allies such as Japan, South Korea and the European Union, which now give Trump a sliding scale of possibilities for relaxing pressure. Current sanctions do everything from curbing the regime’s ability to import oil to preventing small items like laptop computers from being brought into the country.
Trump predicted the summit would produce “a very interesting two-and-a-half days” and said “we have a chance for total denuclearization.”
But he added that he didn’t feel a sense of urgency about reaching an agreement as long as North Korea continues a halt on testing of nuclear weapons and missiles.
“I’m not in a rush,” Trump said. “As long as there’s no testing we’re happy.”
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