WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump
said Thursday that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un
has made nuclear weapons concessions before
even sitting down for talks, while the U.S.
hasn’t given up anything.
Trump’s assertions came before Friday’s
summit between North Korea and South Korea
that’s expected to pave the way for a
historic meeting between Trump and Kim in
May or June.
Trump told “Fox & Friends” that his tough
approach toward the North, and now his
willingness to engage with Kim, had reduced
the risk of nuclear war. He contended that
North Korea has “given up denuclearization,
testing, research” and that “we’re going to
close different sites.”
North Korea recently announced it will
shutter its nuclear test site and suspend
nuclear and intercontinental ballistic
missile tests, and Kim has indicated he’s
ready to discuss denuclearization. That
marks a dramatic shift from the high
tensions of last year, when in defiance of
world opinion and despite intensified
economic sanctions, North Korea rapidly
conducted weapons tests.
“I’m saying to myself ‘wait a minute, all
of these things he’s given up and we haven’t
even really that much asked them,’” Trump
said. He added: “We would have asked them,
but they gave it up before I even asked.”
But doubts linger over Kim’s readiness to
relinquish nuclear weapons his nation
already has, and what he’d want in return.
North Korea is already at the brink of being
able to threaten the U.S. mainland with a
nuclear-tipped missile, and views that
capability as a safeguard against American
aggression and a defense against regime
Trump, who often accuses his predecessors
of failing to address the North Korean
threat, has argued that the only concession
he has made was his surprise decision last
month to accept Kim’s invitation for a
meeting — the first ever between the leaders
of the United States and North Korea during
six decades of hostility. “I never gave up
anything,” Trump repeated.
Critics say Kim may see the summit as a
way to burnish his international standing
and legitimize North Korea’s declared status
as a nuclear power.
Trump acknowledged the rhetoric that both
he and Kim deployed over the last year and
the schoolyard taunts of nuclear “buttons”
was “very, very nasty” and heightened fears
of nuclear war. “This is a much more
dangerous ballgame now, but I will tell you
it’s going very well.”
He said “the nuclear war would have
happened if you have weak people.”
Trump revealed more information about
outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s secret
trip to North Korea this month, saying
Pompeo wasn’t supposed to meet with Kim, but
that they ended up talking for more than an
hour. Later Thursday, the White House
released photos of Pompeo and Kim shaking
hands. Pompeo, who won Senate confirmation
Thursday to become secretary of state, was
the most senior U.S. official to meet a
North Korean leader since 2000.
“They had a great meeting,” Trump said,
without revealing what they discussed.
For now, the diplomatic initiative lies
in the hands of the rival Koreas.
Kim and South Korean President Moon
Jae-in, a key U.S. ally, were to meet Friday
in the heavily militarized frontier between
the Koreas. Moon will be looking to make
some headway on the nuclear issue in advance
of the Trump-Kim summit.
They’re also expected to discuss ways to
both improve relations and settle the
1950-53 Korean War, which was halted with an
armistice, not a peace treaty.