Donald Trump

Donald Trump says US summit meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un may be delayed

US president says that ‘we’re moving along’ regarding the scheduled June 12 meeting, but ‘you never know about deals.’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 1:06am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 4:00pm

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that a planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un might not take place as scheduled.

“It may not work out for June 12,” Trump told reporters during a White House meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is in Washington to discuss the US-North Korea summit.

“We’re moving along,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens. If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later. You never know about deals. … I’ve made a lot of deals. You never really know.”

“There are certain conditions we want, and I think we’ll get those conditions,” Trump said, without providing details. “If we don’t, we won’t” hold the summit, Trump said.

He made his comments with Moon sitting next to him in the Oval Office of the White House.

Moon, speaking through a translator, said of the Trump-Kim meeting: “I have to say that the fate and the future of the Korean peninsula hinge on this. And as such, I'll spare no effort to the end to support the success of the upcoming US-North Korea summit, and stand with you all along the way, Mr. President.”

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During a meeting with Moon in April, Kim had declared “an era of peace”, but Pyongyang cancelled another round of talks scheduled for last week, citing joint US-South Korea military exercises, which had been long planned.

Trump said Tuesday that Kim would be “extremely happy” if the two sides reach a deal on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. He praised the North Koreans “hard-working, great people”.

“We are looking at two Koreas,” Trump said, referring to a possibility of Korean reunification. “Maybe in the future they will go back to one Korea.”

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Moon arrived in Washington on Monday and met with Trump for about two hours on Tuesday at the White House. He is also scheduled to meet with senior US administration officials.

Moon said he had “every confidence” that Trump could make a deal with Kim and formally end the Korean war, which was halted by an armistice in 1953, and bring “peace and prosperity” for North Korea.

The South Korean president said he also believed that Trump could achieve complete denuclearisation of North Korea and normalise relations with Pyongyang.

Later Tuesday, after meeting with Trump at the White House, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that he was confident the US-North Korea meeting was still on track.

“We can get there,” Pompeo said, though he declined to say whether the US was considering other options for the date of the summit.

When asked about Trump’s speculation last week that China could be playing a role in Kim’s about-face regarding the summit, Pompeo declined to comment, though he praised China’s “literally historic assistance” to the pressure campaign against North Korea.

Last Thursday, Trump said Chinese President Xi Jinping “could be influencing” Kim during their second meeting, in Dalian, China, in early May.

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At the White House with Moon, Trump said he would like to hear the South Korean president’s “different opinion” on Kim’s recent meeting with Xi. After this was translated, Trump went on to say: "I don't want to get him in trouble. He lives right next to China, you know, he's not too far away."

Earlier in the day, Chung Eui-yong, South Korea’s national security adviser, expressed optimism about the continued prospects for the meeting, telling reporters during the flight to Washington, “We believe there is a 99.9 per cent chance the North Korea-US summit will be held as scheduled.”

“But we're just preparing for many different possibilities,” the South Korean Yonhap news agency quoted Chung as saying.

Also before Trump’s comments, two US lawmakers had expressed their support for the planned meeting with Kim.

Representative Steve Russell, an Oklahoma Republican who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said it was in the US’s “best interest” to continue to try to have the meeting since Kim’s willingness to negotiate with the US is “unlike any time in the past”.

Russell said the dynamics among stakeholders in the region was also different. “It’s important to see not only our allies in the region, [but also] the leadership of China” have joined the diplomatic efforts on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, he said.

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Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that North Korea had wanted a summit with the US for a long time. “Both sides could declare victory and then go forward with a long process of getting to an eventual deal,” he said.

“All the three countries, South Korea, North Korea and the US, have big incentives to have this summit actually happen,” Lieu added.

However, Lieu cautioned that the US and South Korea may have differences that the two presidents will need to address during their meeting, including whether a military option should be considered against Pyongyang if diplomacy fails.

“The Trump administration is more willing to use the military force than the South Korean government,” Lieu said. “But both are very aligned on at least having diplomacy and sanctions as their first option.”

The North Korean state KCNA news agency had criticised the large-scale 2018 Max Thunder air combat drill throughout South Korea and Japan, which started on May 11, as “a bid to make a preemptive air strike at the DPRK and win the air”.

The KCNA dispatch said the drill was an “extremely provocative and ill-boding act going against the trend for peace and security in the Korean peninsula and dialogue atmosphere”.

Nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and stealth F-22 fighter jets are involved in the drills, KCNA said.

After North Korea’s objection to the military exercises, the US, South Korea and Japan agreed to shift the planned routes for at least two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers so they would not to fly over the Korean peninsula, according to a CNN report on Friday that cited two US defence officials.