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US would be negotiating with NK if not for election: Trump

US President Donald Trump (AFP-Yonhap)
US President Donald Trump (AFP-Yonhap)

US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that if it weren’t for the US presidential election campaign, North Korea, Iran and China would be at the negotiation table wanting to make a deal with the US.

During a 53-minute interview with Fox News, Trump briefly mentioned that if the US didn’t have an election coming up, its stock market would be in better shape and countries like North Korea would be at the negotiation table within 24 hours.

“Our stock market is very close to hitting a new record. … Joe will drive the market into a depression. … If he gets elected, our stock market will crash,” Trump said, referring to his election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, whom he said was more of a leftist than Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.

“If we didn’t have an election now, two things would happen. Number one, our stock market would be even higher. … Another thing is, Iran, China and everybody would be at the table … within 24 hours … wanting to make a deal, including North Korea. By the way, if Hillary Clinton had got in, you would be in a war by now with North Korea.”

In the interview with Fox News, Trump talked about his campaign suing Nevada over its mail-in voting plans; his optimism about how the US is handling the pandemic; Germany and NATO; anti-fascist activists, known as antifa; TikTok and Huawei; and Hong Kong. He also credited himself for doing more for the black community than any other US president except for Abraham Lincoln.

Trump has long played up his diplomacy with North Korea and said it stopped Pyongyang from testing intercontinental ballistic missiles that could hit the US.

Some say the US president might strike some kind of a deal with North Korea in October in hopes of turning the game around just in time for the election in November.

Also on Wednesday, Alex Wong, the United States’ deputy special representative for North Korea, said the US is ready to negotiate the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program while continuing to apply pressure on the regime.

The No. 2 US envoy for North Korea made the remarks during a confirmation hearing on his nomination as US alternate representative for special political affairs at the United Nations.

“The US is ready,” he said during the virtual hearing before the US Senate foreign relations committee.

“We have a strong team here, an interagency team ready to negotiate. But we need to continue on the strategy, continue on the pressure, continue to galvanize the world behind the consensus strategy of using pressure again to channel North Korea to productive negotiations.”

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since February 2019, when Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without a deal as the two sides could not agree on what denuclearization steps the North would have to take in exchange for sanctions relief from the US.

“The good thing about the work we’ve done at the leader level is that we have something we haven’t had, which is a leader-level commitment to complete denuclearization of North Korea,” Wong said, referring to the agreement between Kim and Trump at their first summit in June 2018 to “work toward” the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

“But I’ll be the first to tell you that we have not yet done the working-level negotiations, the hard work of negotiations that we need to do to develop the road map to realize that objective,” Wong added.

Wong said the objective of Trump’s North Korea policy and the negotiations is the “final and fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.”

He also said China has a role to play, including through the enforcement of UN sanctions against the North.

“They have done a lot to implement those sanctions as far as taking down the two-way trade to really, extremely low levels with North Korea,” he said.

“But there continues to be more work that China can do, particularly on sanctions enforcement.”

Wong added that he has not had a chance to fully review the confidential UN report mentioned in news reports, which states that the North appears to have developed miniature nuclear devices to fit atop its ballistic missiles.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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