U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday expressed a willingness to hold a third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but said in talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in that Washington would leave sanctions in place on Pyongyang.
Trump and Moon, in the Oval Office, discussed the possibility of Moon having an inter-Korean summit with Kim soon as a way to boost dialogue between the United States and North Korea on denuclearization.
North Korea, which has suspended nuclear tests and missile launches, has been pressing for sanctions relief but has not taken meaningful steps toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program.
Trump and Kim have met twice, in Hanoi in February and Singapore last June, building good will but failing to agree on a deal to lift sanctions in exchange for North Korea abandoning its nuclear and missile programs.
"It could happen. A third summit could happen. And it's step by step. It's not a fast process. I've never said it would be. It's step by step," Trump said.
Asked by reporters whether he was prepared to ease some sanctions on North Korea, Trump said he and Moon were discussing "certain humanitarian things" and the possibility of South Korea helping the North with food. He did not rule out participating in a three-way summit with both Kim and Moon.
Of sanctions, he said, "We could always increase them, but I didn't want to do that at this time."
Moon said he does not view the summit that collapsed in Hanoi as a failure, but part of a longer "process." He said he agreed with Trump on the "ultimate goal" of total denuclearization by North Korea.
"The important task that we face right now is to maintain the momentum of dialogue and also express the positive outlook regarding the third U.S.-North Korea summit to the international community, that this will be held in the near future," Moon said.
In a statement following the meeting, the White House said Trump reiterated to Moon that he has a good relationship with Kim and "noted the door remains open to dialogue."