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Trump has a ‘strong’ denuclearizing plan

But U.S. president also admits that summit on June 12 isn’t certain
May 24,2018
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U.S. President Donald Trump, right, meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in visits the old Korean legation building in Washington which opened to the public on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump said he has a “strong idea” of how to denuclearize North Korea and that he preferred the process to be “all-in-one,” as he headed into a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Tuesday in Washington.

Trump pledged he would “guarantee” the safety of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the prosperity of his country should he agree to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) during a question and answer session with reporters in the Oval Office on the sidelines of his summit with Moon.

“He will be safe,” said Trump about Kim. “He will be happy. His country will be rich. His country will be hardworking and very prosperous.”

Borrowing from his famous campaign slogan, Trump said “very large sums of money” would be poured into North Korea from China, Japan and South Korea to “make North Korea great” if a denuclearization deal is reached. He said he’s “spoken to all three” of these countries.

“If you look 25 years into the future, 50 years into the future, [Kim] will be able to look back and be very proud of what he did for North Korea and, actually, for the world,” said Trump.

Trump also indicated that there will be no accelerated or forced unification of the Korean Peninsula.

“What’s going to happen is you’ll start off, certainly, with two Koreas,” said Trump. “And then it’s going to be largely up to them as to whether or not they get together. “

He acknowledged that the border between the two Koreas “was artificially imposed many, many years ago - and imposed, to a certain extent and to a very large extent, by us.”

Trump called the North Koreans “hardworking, great people,” and recalled that the United States in the past had also helped South Korea, which he referred to as “one of the most incredible countries in terms of what they do.”

“South Korea was in a condition that was as bad as North Korea many years ago, when they started this great experiment that worked out so well for them,” he said, and pointed to a future of “two very successful Koreas.”

However, Trump also said there was a “very substantial chance” that his summit with North Korean leader Kim next month could be delayed if conditions are not right, indicating his dissatisfaction with the North’s recent threat to pull out of the talks.

“There’s a lot of substantial chance that it won’t work out,” said Trump.

“There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we’ll get those conditions. And if we don’t, we won’t have the meeting,” he said.

But he added, “If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later.”

“Certain conditions” apparently refer to the North’s assurance that it will give up its weapons of mass destruction in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

While Trump mentioned the possibility of delaying the June 12 meeting to be held in Singapore, he also noted there was a “good chance” that it would happen in the future.

“It may not work out for June 12,” he said. “But there’s a good chance that we’ll have the meeting.”

“They can’t be a great country under the circumstances that they’re living right now. North Korea has a chance really to be a great country and I think they should see the opportunity and we’ll soon find out whether or not they want to do that,” he continued.

Trump’s remarks hinting at the possibility of delaying or scrapping the highly anticipated Pyongyang-Washington summit came amid growing skepticism and concerns in Washington over whether the Kim Jong-un regime is really intent on giving up its nuclear weapons.

The North’s threat last week to walk away from the meeting in protest of the U.S. push for CVID has put the prospect of the Kim-Trump meeting in question.

Trump further indicated that Kim’s attitude seemed to have changed for the worse after his second surprise summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Dalian in northeastern China earlier this month.

He said, “I will say I’m a little disappointed because when Kim Jong-un had the meeting with President Xi in China, the second meeting - the first meeting we knew about … I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong-un. So I don’t like that.”

While Trump reiterated he had a “great relationship” with Xi, he also recognized the Chinese leader as “a world-class poker player.”

He pointed out that “there was different attitude by the North Korean folks” after the second summit between Xi and Kim. Trump also said that China’s border trade with North Korea has been “opened up a little bit lately,” which he said he doesn’t like.

On whether he would push for an “all-in-one” denuclearization model, meaning all denuclearization measures are carried out by Pyongyang as a package deal, or an action-for-action model, where the North is rewarded for each stage of denuclearization, Trump said he preferred an all-in-one model, but noted he was not “totally” committed to it.

“Well all-in-one would be nice, I can tell you,” he said. “I don’t think I want to totally commit myself, but all-in-one would be a lot better. Or at least for physical reasons, over a very short period of time.”

But he added on the North’s denuclearization that he has “a strong idea how it takes place,” further cementing that he has his own style of denuclearizing Pyongyang, adding that it “must take place” and calling on Kim to “seize the opportunity.”

The North’s sudden shift of stance to rebuke both Washington and Seoul has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the June 12 summit. Unhappy with the recent developments, Trump reportedly peppered his aides with questions about the wisdom of hosting the summit, worried about the possibility of political embarrassment if Kim comes to the table refusing denuclearization, according to a New York Times report published Sunday.

Moon, aware of looming skepticism among U.S. officials over the prospect of North Korea’s denuclearization, tried to inject a positive note and put to rest speculation about the Kim-Trump summit being called off.

“I am very much aware that there are many skeptical views within the United States about whether the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit will truly be successful and whether the complete denuclearization of North Korea will be realized,” said Moon to reporters while sitting alongside Trump. “But I don’t think there will be positive developments in history if we just assume that because it all failed in the past, it will fail again.”

Noting it will be the first time that an agreement will be reached between the leaders of North Korea and the United States, Moon expressed his trust in Trump, attributing recent diplomatic developments on North Korea to Trump’s ability as a deft negotiator.

“President Trump has been able to achieve this dramatic and positive change that you see right now,” said Moon. “And I have every confidence that President Trump will be able to achieve a historic feat of making the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit successful and [formally] end the Korean War that had been lasting for the past 65 years, and also, along the way, achieve complete denuclearization of North Korea, establish a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and also normalize relations between the United States and North Korea.”

Moon said he has “no doubt” that Trump will be “able accomplish a historic feat that no one had been able to achieve in the decades past.”

Moon also pledged to “stand by” President Trump and offer his help to the best of his ability.

When asked about his role of brokering the Kim-Trump meeting, Moon stressed his relationship with Trump was based on a partnership to form a strategy for the successful June 12 summit since the “fate and the future of the Korean Peninsula hinges” on its outcome.

Trump also showered Moon with praise, saying South Korea was “lucky” to have Moon as president.

He called Moon a “very capable person” and “an extremely competent man.”

“I think he’s a very good person,” said Trump. “And I think he wants to have what’s good for the Korean Peninsula not just [the] North or South, [but] for the entire Korean Peninsula. So, I have tremendous confidence in President Moon.”

After the 30-minute question and answer session ended at 12:42 p.m., the two leaders had a one-on-one meeting accompanied by interpreters that ran to 20 minutes. The one-on-one meeting was followed by an extended, luncheon meeting joined by officials from both sides, which ran until 2:09 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later clarified at a press briefing on the date of the North-U.S. summit, “We’re still working towards June 12.

“We are continuing to prepare both our team and the White House so that in the event that the summit takes place on June 12, we are fully prepared with the mission statement having not changed at all,” said Pompeo. “We are committed to achieving denuclearization and creating conditions such that the North Korean regime no longer threatens the world.”

His team, he said, will continue to do its work and “lay the foundation for a successful meeting,” adding, “I’m confident we’ll get there.”

Trump, he added, “will ask us to ensure that we’ve done all we can to make sure that we have the real opportunity to have this historic successful outcome.”

Pompeo said he plans to do “what it takes” to ensure a successful meeting, “whether that’s meeting with the North Koreans in some third country, or whatever it may take.”

He described his meetings with South Korean officials, which included a meeting with President Moon, as “constructive.”

Referring to his meeting with North Korean leader Kim earlier this month, Pompeo said, “I do have a real sense that he would find American investment, American technology, American know-how of real value to his people, and it’s something that he and I had a chance to speak about generally.”

He relayed that, if a denuclearization deal is struck with Kim, “America would be quite capable of delivering them with lots of things that would make life better for the North Korean people.”

The Blue House said Moon and Trump agreed that the June 12 summit meeting should take place as scheduled and exchanged thoughts on the North’s recent posturing toward the two allies. Moon also emphasized that there was no need to doubt the North’s determination to have the North-U.S. summit, despite its threat last week to walk away from the talks.

Moon also told Trump that high-level inter-Korean talks will take place after Friday, when a joint Seoul-Washington military drill finishes.

Following his meeting with Trump, Moon paid a visit to the former Korean legation building in Logan Circle Historic District in Washington, which was Korea’s first diplomatic office set up in 1889. The Blue House said Moon’s visit signified the strong alliance of the two nations. Moon left Washington later in the day.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, SARAH KIM [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]