Donald Trump has said a fourth summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “could happen soon” amid stalled nuclear diplomacy.
The US president did not elaborate in comments to reporters ahead of UN meetings in New York, and it was not clear if concrete plans were in the works for another meeting to address a growing diplomatic impasse over the North’s development of nuclear-armed missiles targeting the US mainland.
The stalemate comes despite past high-profile meetings between Mr Trump and Mr Kim. The US president has played down a series of recent North Korean tests of short-range missiles and artillery systems that could strike US allies South Korea and Japan, which host tens of thousands of American troops.
Asked as he arrived at the UN when he planned to meet Mr Kim, he told reporters: “It could happen soon. It could happen soon.”
Mr Trump is meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the driving force behind the initial diplomacy that led to the first Trump-Kim summit last year and replaced threats of war in 2017.
The US leader also will speak at the UN General Assembly, two years after he used that podium to deride Mr Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and to threaten to destroy North Korea.
The North reportedly has not sent its top diplomat to the UN meetings, making the Moon-Trump talks potentially the highest-level diplomatic opportunity to push ahead this week on the nuclear stand-off.
Talks have been stalled for months as the impoverished North pushes for sanctions relief and Washington and Pyongyang jockey over what disarmament steps it should take in return.
Mr Trump has repeatedly said he is not worried by the stagnating diplomacy and North Korea’s recent weapons tests, but there is a strong sense of urgency in Seoul and elsewhere.
The second Kim-Trump summit collapsed in February, and while the leaders met briefly again at the Korean border in June, there has been little apparent progress since then.
In recent days, however, North Korea has praised Mr Trump for saying Washington may pursue an unspecified “new method” in nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang as well as for his decision to fire his hawkish former national security adviser John Bolton.
Although North Korea has hinted that some sort of diplomacy could soon resume, it says it will not consider abandoning its nuclear weapons unless it faces no external threats.
The North says annual US-South Korean military drills and the huge presence of American troops in the region are proof of US hostility towards Pyongyang.