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WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Donald Trump said his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might not take place next month.
“If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later,” Trump said. “It may not work out for June 12.”
Trump added, however, “There’s a good chance we’ll have the meeting,” terming the preliminary discussions between his administration and North Korean officials, so far, “a good experience.”
Trump also said of Kim that “I think he’s absolutely serious” about the planned talks.
Trump, speaking in the Oval Office alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, explained, “There are certain conditions that we want. I think we will get those conditions.”
Asked about the conditions, Trump replied, “I’d rather not say.” But he stated that the denuclearization of North Korea “must take place.”
“After talking about the summit with unbridled enthusiasm, President Trump is now playing it cool, hinting that he could just as easily walk away,” said Jean Lee, director of Korean history and public policy at the Wilson Center. “We know he wants it — and so does Kim Jong Un — but it’s a complicated courtship between these leaders of two countries that remain in a technical state of war.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters at a State Department briefing Tuesday, said the U.S. is still working toward the June 12 summit date, but wouldn’t predict whether the summit would take place. But he said he was “confident we’ll get there” in the end.
Might call off meeting
North Korea has indicated it might call off the meeting due to disagreements on conditions by the United States for unilateral denuclearization.
“All in one [denuclearization] would be a lot better,” Trump stated but acknowledged that for “physical reasons” that might not be immediately possible, Kim would have to agree to abandon his nuclear arsenal “over a very short period of time.”
Trump, during a 35-minute exchange with reporters in the Oval Office, said if Kim agrees to that, “I will guarantee his safety,” which would make Kim happy and “his country will be rich.”
South Korea, China and Japan, according to Trump, are ready to invest “very, very large sums of money into helping to make North Korea great” if there’s a deal made to get rid of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.
“If it doesn’t work out, he can’t be happy,” said Trump, who recently warned that North Korea would be “decimated” if it does not agree to give up its atomic arsenal.
“North Korea will chafe at this approach,” Lee at the Wilson Center told VOA News. “Kim Jong Un doesn’t want to be treated, publicly, like a pauper. He wants to come to the table as an equal, and from a position of perceived strength, not as a supplicant.”
Moon, who flew to Washington from Seoul to try to persuade Trump not to call off next month’s meeting in Singapore with the North’s leader, said he has “every confidence [Trump] will be able to achieve a historic feat” by getting North Korea to denuclearize, ending the Korean War, establishing relations between Washington and Pyongyang and thus bringing “peace and prosperity” to the northern half of the peninsula.
“I will spare no effort to provide all necessary support,” Moon said. “The fate and the future of Korea hinge on this.”
The two-hour talks Tuesday between Trump and Moon marked their sixth meeting, although they have spoken on the telephone numerous other times.
Trump in charge
Moon, in the Oval Office discussion, credited Trump with bringing about the recent positive change of tone from North Korea, saying, “The person who is in charge is President Trump. President Trump has been able to achieve this dramatic change.”
Trump, in response to a question from a South Korean reporter, said, “I have tremendous confidence in President Moon, and I think South Korea is very lucky to have him.”
After a historic inter-Korean meeting between Moon and Kim last month, a followup round of high-level North-South talks was abruptly canceled by Pyongyang, which expressed anger about continuing military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
Trump said the two Koreas have been separated for decades by “an artificial border” and predicted “maybe someday in the future they’ll get together and you’ll go back to one Korea.”
Also under discussion between Seoul and Washington is the size and cost of U.S. forces in South Korea to defend it against the North.
The Trump administration is reportedly considering reducing the number of American military personnel from the current level of 28,500. A South Korean official said Seoul and Washington “remain far apart on the cost-sharing issue.”
Asked by VOA News at Tuesday’s White House briefing about the outcome of the discussion concerning the U.S. troops, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders replied she had no immediate information.
“At least in the meeting that I was in that did not come up,” Sanders added.
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