“We still continue to assess within the IC (intelligence community) that [North Korean Leader] Kim Jong-un is not ready to denuclearize,” Director of US Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said during an interview with Fox News on Monday.
The remarks came just hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed optimism that a letter sent to Kim by President Donald Trump could facilitate the revival of talks between the two.
Their second and last meeting collapsed in Vietnam last February when they failed to agree on mutual steps.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Sunday that Trump had written to Kim, who praised the letter as “excellent” and said he would “seriously contemplate the interesting content.” The front page of North’s official daily Rodong Sinmun also carried a photo of Kim reading Trump’s letter in his office.
The KCNA report about Trump’s letter came just two days after Kim hosted China’s President Xi Jinping.
North Korean state media reported that Kim and Xi discussed the political situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula and came to unspecified agreements on important issues. President Xi, meanwhile, is expected to meet Trump during the upcoming G20 summit in Japan amid speculation that the former aims to use his North Korea visit to signal his leverage over Kim to the US president.
Trump is also due to visit South Korea next weekend after the exchange of letters with Kim raised hopes for a resumption of the talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear program in return for the termination of US sanctions on Pyongyang.
While Washington demands that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before lifting US-led sanctions against the country, Pyongyang insists on a step-by-step approach that would include verifiable American commitment to end its massive military presence near its territorial waters.
Trump is set to arrive in South Korea for a two-day visit on Saturday, and will meet President Moon Jae-in on Sunday, following the G20 summit in Japan, according to Moon’s spokeswoman Ko Min-jung.