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President Trump: Summit With Kim Jong Un Is On For June 12

Jun 1, 2018
Originally published on June 2, 2018 12:26 am

Updated at 5:00 p.m. ET

President Trump says his nuclear summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is back on.

"We'll be meeting on June 12 in Singapore," Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, after escorting Kim's top deputy, Kim Yong Chol, out of an Oval Office meeting.

"It will be a beginning," Trump said of the summit, which aims to pave the way toward eliminating North Korea's nuclear program. "I've never said it happens in one meeting. You're talking about years of hostility, years of problems. Years of — really — hatred, between so many different nations. But I think you're going to have a very positive result."

Kim Yong Chol delivered a personal letter to Trump from the North Korean leader. Trump told reporters it was a "very nice letter .... a very interesting letter." Moments later, he said he "hadn't seen the letter yet" and had purposely not opened it.

The White House visit — the first by a North Korean official in nearly two decades — follows two days of meetings in New York between Kim Yong Chol and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Trump had abruptly canceled the planned summit with Kim last week, citing anger and hostility from North Korea. But since then, there's been a flurry of diplomatic activity as officials worked to revive the meeting.

Trump described the session with Kim Yong Chol as a positive, introductory session.

"I think that we're going to have a relationship and it will start on June 12," the president said.

Trump said he did not discuss human rights Friday with Kim Yon Chol, but said he "probably will, and in great detail" during his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong Un.

Trump said North Korean officials asked about sanctions, which Trump said will remain in place.

But he appeared to soften his rhetoric towards North Korea, saying "I don't want to even use the term maximum pressure anymore," Trump said, "because we're getting along." He said the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea "is as good as it's been in a long time."

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump's nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is officially back on. The two are expected to meet in Singapore in less than two weeks, the same date they had originally agreed to. They'll be talking about dismantling North Korea's nuclear program. Outside the White House today, Trump told reporters he believes the summit will launch a new relationship between the United States and North Korea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It'll be a beginning. I don't say and I've never said it happens in one meeting. You're talking about years of hostility, years of problems, years of really hatred between so many different nations. But I think you're going to have a very positive result.

KELLY: News that the summit is on again came after a lengthy Oval Office meeting between the president and one of Kim Jong Un's top deputies. NPR's Scott Horsley is at the White House. And he's on the line now. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: All right, so before we get to the summit in Singapore which is now back on again, get to this meeting in the White House today, which was quite something in its own right.

HORSLEY: Yeah. Kim Yong Chol is the first North Korean official to visit the White House in almost two decades. You have to go back to the end of the Clinton administration to find anything like this. And he arrived at the South Portico this afternoon with very little fanfare, actually. He was whisked into the Oval Office by chief of staff John Kelly. And he was ostensibly there mainly to deliver a letter to the president from Kim Jong Un.

But he wound up staying for well over an hour. The president later called it a get-to-know-you-plus meeting. And when it was over, the president escorted Kim Yong Chol out onto the South Lawn. They posed for some pictures there along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And then the president told the assembled reporters, pack your bags; we're going to Singapore after all.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: I think it's going to be a process that we deserve to have. I mean, we really deserve - they want it. We think it's important. And I think we would be making a big mistake if we didn't have it. I think we're going to have a relationship, and it'll start on June 12.

HORSLEY: And in talking about this summit as the start of a process, the president is sort of lowering expectations that he's going to come away with some grand disarmament deal. Instead he's just talking about getting the ball rolling in that direction.

KELLY: And just to remind people, I mean, it was a week and a day ago that President Trump pulled out of this summit meeting, said it's off. What has changed? How did we get back to it's game-on June 12?

HORSLEY: Well, last Thursday, White House officials said, you know, the North Koreans hadn't been answering their phone calls. They didn't show up for a preparatory meeting. But since the president made that announcement, we've seen a flurry of diplomatic activity. In addition to this meeting here at the White House today, there was a meeting with the secretary of state in New York City.

Separate talks have been going on in Singapore and along the Demilitarized Zone along the border between North and South Korea. A State Department official said all of this is aimed at deciding whether they have the makings of a successful summit between the president and Kim Jong Un, and ultimately the president decided they do.

KELLY: And, Scott, do we have any more insight into what would count as a successful summit from the North Koreans' point of view, what they want in exchange for at least starting talks about maybe giving up their nukes?

HORSLEY: Well, certainly they want some sort of guarantee of security. That's the reason they have the nuclear weapons. Separately, North and South Korea have also been talking about having talks of their own on reuniting families separated by the Korean War. And Trump hinted today at a broader peace agreement.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: We did discuss that, the ending of the Korean War. Can you believe that we're talking about the ending of the Korean War? You're talking about 70 years.

HORSLEY: Trump also talked about economic help for North Korea. Although he said that's likely to come from the country's neighbors rather than the United States.

KELLY: All right, thank you, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.