- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2019

Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the “overriding goal” of President Trump’s summit next week with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea is not on the table, senior administration officials said Thursday.

“It is ultimately about the denuclearization of North Korea,” one Trump official told reporters. “That is what was agreed already between the two sides, and that is the overriding goal that President Trump is seeking to achieve with this summit. This is an important step toward that ultimate goal.”

Mr. Trump will hold his second summit with Mr. Kim on Feb. 27-28 in Hanoi, Vietnam, following up on their historic first meeting last June in Singapore.

Since last summer, negotiators from both sides have been talking in Pyongyang and in Washington about moving toward the details of a deal that would result in the complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles.

One official said withdrawing roughly 28,000 U.S. troops from South Korea “is not the subject of discussions.”

“I’ve never discussed that in any round of negotiations,” the official said.

Mr. Trump said this week he is in “no rush” to reach a comprehensive deal with North Korea. But his aides said there is still an urgency to the talks.

“When the president says he’s in no hurry, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t directed us to fully engage with the North Koreans,” one official said. “[He] definitely recognizes the importance of the issue and has encouraged us to move it as far along as we can. Not in a hurry doesn’t mean not important. We are not looking to have incremental steps. We need to move in very big bites.”

The official said the U.S. “will be seeking to advance a shared understanding” of North Korea’s definition of denuclearization.

Officials also discounted the possibility of easing U.S. sanctions on North Korea before a complete agreement is reached.

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