Donald Trump is planning a second meeting with Kim Jong Un — which could seem like rewarding the despot for ignoring denuclearization plans and ramping up his nuclear production.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Trump recently received a “very warm” letter from Kim, asking for another sit-down following their high-profile meet in Singapore in June.
“It was a very warm, very positive letter," Sanders said of Kim’s latest missive. "The primary purpose of the letter was to schedule another meeting with the president, which we are open to and are already in the process of coordinating.”
Sanders added that the correspondence showed Pyongyang's “continued commitment to focus on denuclearization” on the Korean Peninsula.
The press secretary’s optimism stands in contrast to mounting evidence that Kim has no intention of giving up his hard-won nuclear arsenal.
A senior Russian official who met Kim over the weekend said the leader told her he's not planning any unilateral steps to denuclearize, according to a report from Russian news agency RIA.
Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, said Kim believes he has already done enough and is now waiting for the U.S. to respond to steps he already took.
Kim may be referring to the toned-down military parade Sunday that didn’t feature any intercontinental ballistic missiles, a move that drew praise from Trump.
The White House seems intent on ignoring the growing evidence that Kim has already restarted his nuclear weapons program.
A report from NBC Monday, citing three senior U.S. officials, said the North Korean regime has escalated efforts to conceal its nuclear activity, including covering up the entrance to at least one warhead storage facility.
This follows a July report that Pyongyang began building work at a missile site near the capital shortly after the Singapore summit, and that the regime has developed one or two new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Along with the detected activity, U.S. officials also believe Kim is operating a secret nuclear-enrichment facility, where he is producing fissile material for his nuclear arsenal.
In June, U.S. intelligence officials said North Korea could produce between five and eight new nuclear weapons in 2018.
While Trump has been trying to present a positive outlook on North Korea since Singapore, he did cancel a planned visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, after the president took umbrage at a letter written by Kim Yong Chol, the former head of North Korea's spy agency.
And Trump’s current affection for the North Korean leader follow months of animosity in which the president taunting Kim on Twitter as the “little rocket man.”
It was revealed this week by journalist Bob Woodward that Trump almost started a war on the Korean Peninsula, drafting a tweet about pulling the dependents of U.S. troops out of South Korea — a move the north would have interpreted as a prelude to an attack.
Cover image: Donald Trump answers questions during a press conference following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. (The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)