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In shift, White House describes terms for North Korea talks

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

The Trump administration continued on Wednesday to soften its rhetoric on North Korea, with a senior official spelling out terms for talks over its nuclear arms program. Not long ago, the administration declared negotiations would be a waste of time.

Any negotiations with Pyongyang and other countries over its nuclear and long-range missile development would have to meet the standard of being "authentic talks," the senior administration official told reporters on Air Force One heading to Beijing. For negotiations to begin, the North would first have to "reduce the threat, (end) provocations, and (move) toward sincere steps to ultimately denuclearize," the official added.

In another dramatic change, the senior official even discussed things the Trump administration would insist be a part of any potential eventual pact with North Korea.

For instance, Trump would demand legitimate means of verifying that the Kim government was living up to its commitments to be included.

"It has to be verifiable cases," the official said, also signaling the administration favors negotiations involving the North and other countries than just the United States. The White House has been firm that so-called "bilateral" talks are off the table -- at least for now. To that end, the senior official dinged past administrations' "very disappointing history" of trying to talk directly to Pyongyang, dating back to the George H.W. Bush administration.

One thing that could wreck even the potential for negotiations: Kim Jong-un's government refusing to discuss its nuclear arms.

"That is a non-starter for us," the senior official said.

The administration's sudden willingness to even publicly discuss negotiations and the terms of an agreement is a departure from its own recent rhetoric.

On Oct. 7, Trump himself tweeted that "only one thing will work" when it comes to the North.

"Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid ... hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators," Trump wrote that day, hinting at military action being the sole effective option. "Sorry, but only one thing will work!"

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