Donald Trump says he’ll walk out of Kim Jong-un talks if they’re not ‘fruitful’
President Donald Trump said he’ll abandon plans for an unprecedented summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if he decides it won’t be successful – or walk out of the meeting if it’s not productive while he’s there.
“If we don’t think it’s going to be successful, we won’t have it,” Mr Trump said at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday.
“If I don’t think it’s a meeting that’s going to be fruitful, we won’t go. If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.”
Mr Trump didn’t say what would make the summit a success, and he didn’t answer a question about whether he would demand the return of three Americans held in captivity in North Korea ahead of the meeting.
The comments come as south Korean media reports the US President wants to go it alone with Kim Jong-un.
Mr Trump hopes to speak with the North Korean leader at their upcoming summit with only interpreters present, the Chosun Ilbo reported Thursday, citing multiple unidentified South Korean diplomatic sources.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, discussed the three captives with Mr Kim in an unannounced visit to Pyongyang about two weeks ago, a person familiar with the matter said.
Mr Abe stressed the importance of resolving abduction issues in any talks with Mr Kim, and Mr Trump pledged to Mr Abe that “we will work hard on that issue.” It’s a priority for Japan to recover citizens abducted by the North Korean regime in past years or information about their whereabouts.
Mr Trump said his administration is “fighting very diligently to get the three American citizens back. I think think there’s a good chance of doing it; we’re having very good dialogue.”
Sweden and Switzerland are among the places the White House is considering for the summit, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr Trump confirmed on Wednesday that he dispatched Pompeo to Pyongyang last month to meet with Kim in advance of the summit, which the US hopes will lead to North Korea giving up its nuclear arsenal. The unannounced meeting indicates preparations are advancing for a summit that Trump said could take place by early June or sooner.
“Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed,” Trump said in a Twitter posting Wednesday morning. “Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearisation will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
Mr Pompeo – who’s awaiting confirmation as secretary of state – is the highest-ranking US official to visit the isolated nation since former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000. A White House official said Mr Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang over Easter weekend, not “last week” as the president said in his tweet.
The US president told reporters Tuesday that the administration had “started talking to North Korea directly” and was discussing five potential sites for the meeting. “We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea,” Trump said.
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Any summit would likely be the start of a long and potentially fraught process aimed at persuading Mr Kim to give up North Korea’s nuclear arsenal -something his family has held onto for decades as key to their grip on power at home and their only real external deterrent. A successful outcome might simply be an agreement for talks to continue and a plan for the next meeting.
A landmark summit next week between Mr Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will set the tone for the later meeting with Mr Trump.
On Thursday, Mr Moon said a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War "must be pursued" but signaled that such a deal would be dependent on North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.
North and South Korea have existed with an uneasy truce for almost seven decades after signing an armistice at the end of the Korean War of 1950 to 1953 but not a peace treaty.
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"The armistice that has dragged on for 65 years must come to an end," said Mr Moon.
"If the inter-Korean summit or North Korea-US summit lead to denuclearisation. I think that it won’t be too difficult to reach practical agreements in the big picture on creating a peace regime, normalising North Korea-US ties, or providing international aid for the improvement of the North Korean economy," he added.
Locations for the meeting include Geneva, an unidentified Swedish location, and venues in Asia and Southeast Asia, people familiar with the talks told Bloomberg. One person said the US wasn’t considering Beijing, Pyongyang, Seoul or Panmunjom, the site of the Korean armistice signing in 1953.
“It makes the proposed summit all the more likely to happen,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, director and senior fellow at New America in New York, who facilitated the talks in Oslo that resulted in ailing US citizen Otto Warmbier’s release from North Korea. “It is reassuring that the Trump administration is taking serious steps to prepare for that historic interaction.”
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If Mr Trump and Mr Kim manage to establish a rapport, much like Mr Trump’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, it could go a long way toward overcoming tensions around Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons tests and regular US military drills near the Korean peninsula.
Mr Trump’s aides believe that if the meeting leads to a thaw between the US and North Korea, which at points last year seemed at the brink of war, the president and Mr Kim could win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Pompeo trip is part of a global diplomatic scramble after Mr Trump’s March 8 decision to meet Kim to break the decades-long impasse over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
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The clandestine visit is reminiscent of then National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger’s secret diplomatic mission to Beijing in 1971. Those trips laid the groundwork for President Richard Nixon’s unexpected visit to China the following year, which paved the way to opening up the country.
The Central Intelligence Agency chief arrived in North Korea just days after Mr Kim returned from his own surprise visit to Beijing – his first trip outside the country since taking power in 2011.
Bloomberg had earlier reported that a “very senior” US official spoke directly with Mr Kim, bypassing third parties, citing a person familiar with the matter.