Donald Trump says he might invite Kim Jong-un to White House after ‘warm’ letter from dictator
During the joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump also said that he hopes for a normalisation in ties with North Korea
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he was considering inviting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit the White House following a “warm” letter given to him by the dictator.
“It was a warm letter and nice and I appreciated it very much,” Trump told a joint press conference at the White House with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, adding that he hoped to normalise ties with North Korea “when everything is complete”.
When asked if Kim would be invited to Washington or his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump said: “Maybe we’ll start with the White House, what do you think?”
Trump and Abe held the joint press conference at the White House following discussions on the June 12 meeting between Trump and Kim in Singapore. They were then to head to Canada for what promises to be a tense Group of Seven summit clouded by the US leader’s aggressive trade policies.
With five days to go before the meeting, Trump assured reporters that the unprecedented summit was “all ready to go”, and that “It’s going to be much more than a photo op.”
At the start of the meeting with Abe, Trump said he also would raise the US trade deficit with Japan, a key American ally that was among countries hit by the metal tariffs Trump imposed this spring.
“Obviously, we buy a lot of things from Japan – in particular, automobiles. We’ll have to talk about that,” Trump told reporters, adding that Japan also buys a lot of military equipment from the United States.
Since the first inkling that a Trump-Kim summit could be on the cards, Japan has repeatedly insisted that Washington be mindful not to let its guard down with the nuclear-armed regime in Pyongyang.
And by coming to Washington to see Trump for the second time in less than two months, Abe wants to be sure to get his point across to the US president, amid the intense diplomatic flurry over the future of the Korean peninsula.
Before leaving Tokyo, the Japanese leader emphasised that during his lightning visit to Washington, he hoped to “closely coordinate and agree” with Trump on an approach to the North Korea issue.
He clearly outlined what would need to happen for the summit to be a success: tangible progress on curbing the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, as well as answers about Japanese nationals kidnapped by Pyongyang in the 1970s and 1980s.
During their last meeting at Trump’s Florida retreat in April, the US president promised Abe to raise the politically sensitive abductions issue in any talks with Pyongyang.
The intensifying diplomacy on North Korea has so far left Abe as the odd man out: Trump is preparing to meet Kim, while Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in have each already seen the North’s leader twice.
For Richard Armitage, a former senior diplomat during the administration of George W. Bush, Tokyo runs a very real risk of finding itself out in the cold after the Trump-Kim talks.
“We should absolutely prevent decoupling – decoupling Japanese and US security,” he said.
“This is and has been an aim of China and North Korea for a long time, and we can’t allow this to happen. That would be falling into a terrible trap.”
Trump and Abe so far seem to have forged a sort of friendship, but even that bonhomie was revealed to be limited at their last meeting.
On Thursday, it could again be put to the test – beyond North Korea, they are also meant to discuss the controversial issue of tariffs, which Washington says were put in place to protect American workers.
“I will stress that measures to restrict trade would not serve the interests of any country,” Abe said before heading to Washington.
Japan had hoped to convince the US to shield it from fresh tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, and did not hide its bitter disappointment when those talks failed.
The government in Tokyo warned of the “grave impact” that US tariffs could have on bilateral ties and the world trading system.
“The US government’s trade measures, citing its security, makes us concerned that they could disrupt the global market,” government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Monday.
Additional reporting by Reuters.