Donald Trump has proposed a meeting with Kim Jong Un at the border between North Korea and South Korea this weekend, in what would be the third meeting of the two leaders.
In a statement via Twitter on Saturday, the US president said: “After some very important meetings, including my meeting with President Xi of China, I will leaving Japan for South Korea (with President Moon). While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him a the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!.”
A meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Kim would come amid a deadlock in negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme and international sanctions.
Mr Trump is scheduled to travel to Seoul later today from Osaka, Japan, where he has been attending the G20 summit.
He is expected to visit the demilitarised zone along the countries’ border on Sunday, following meetings with South Korean president Moon Jae-in and business leaders in Seoul.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House declined to comment on Mr Trump’s statement on Saturday or whether planning was under way for such a meeting at the DMZ.
Speaking on Saturday before he met Chinese president Xi Jinping, Mr Trump said that his 2016 election victory had staved off war with North Korea.
“If I didn’t become president . . . you’d be having a war right now with North Korea,” Mr Trump said on day two of the G20 summit.
After Mr Trump won the White House in 2016, then president Barack Obama warned him that North Korea was the most pressing threat to the US given its nuclear weapons programme.
As Mr Trump has pursued a dual track of “maximum pressure” and tough diplomacy, he has repeatedly said that his 2016 win helped to prevent the US from going to war with North Korea.
However, talks between North Korea and the US have stalled after the second summit between the two leaders, held in Hanoi in February, fell apart without a deal reached.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim have exchanged letters in recent weeks, in a sign that relations might have been warming — the first summit between the leaders in Singapore also followed the exchange of letters.
And earlier this week, Mr Moon said the US and North Korea had held “behind-the-scenes-talks” about a third summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim. But US officials said there we no plans for such a meeting during Mr Trump’s visit to Asia this week.
Despite those moves it is not clear whether Mr Kim will attend such a meeting.
While the US has continued to push for an agreement where Mr Kim gives up his entire existing nuclear weapons arsenal and ends the development of new arms, the North Korean side wants to be rewarded with the removal of sanctions for smaller steps toward denuclearisation.
Hopes for progress were further dented in May after North Korea fired short-range ballistic missiles for the first time since 2017 and the US confirmed the 2018 seizure of a North Korean ship allegedly used to evade sanctions.
Kwon Jong Gun, a North Korean foreign ministry official, said via state media on Thursday that the US was “like a parrot” in its calls for a resumption of dialogue.
“The United States is now talking much about the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]-US dialogue, but in reality, it is becoming more and more desperate in its hostile acts against the DPRK,” Mr Kwon said.
Mr Kwon also reiterated Mr Kim’s warning that “the time limit is until the end of this year” for the US to change its “method of calculation” towards North Korea.
Additional reporting by Demetri Sevastopulo in Osaka and Song Jung-a in Seoul