Just how “serious” is North Korea about denuclearization … and in which direction? Donald Trump addressed concerns over the upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un during a press avail before his meeting with South Korean president Moon Jae-in by suggesting that the date for the summit could shift — if Trump doesn’t get the “conditions” he wants. “It might not work out for June 12th,” he told reporters, shrugging off a delay:
Pres. Trump addresses scheduled summit with North Korea: "We're moving along and we'll see what happens. There are certain conditions that we want and I think we'll get those conditions, and if we don't, we don't have the meeting." https://t.co/3EcvHLphoM pic.twitter.com/syUjx1r3jF
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 22, 2018
Trump said he believes North Korea is “serious” about denuclearization, but suggested the June 12 summit date could slip as the two nations wrangle over the terms of a nuclear deal.
“If it doesn’t happen, maybe it will happen later,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “You never know about deals … I’ve made a lot of deals. You never really know. It may not work out for June 12.”
That comes in response to a series of statements from official North Korea media — but pointedly not officials — blaming both the US and South Korea for increasing tensions ahead of the planned June 12th summit. The message in return indicates that the US is not going to bend over backwards for the summit, especially by giving concessions on planned military drills or the demand for denuclearization. Trump did go out of his way to refrain from criticizing Kim, noting that the process during the short time of this engagement has been positive. However, Trump’s attitude clearly suggested that a delay to get the right “conditions” in place would be preferable to holding a meeting under other circumstances.
Trump did note that the North Korean attitude changed after Kim’s second meeting with China’s Xi Jinping. “I think things changed after that meeting,” Trump commented, hinting at criticism for Xi:
Pres. Trump: "There was a different attitude by the North Korean folks after [second Chinese] meeting. So, I don't think it was a great meeting…I think things changed after that meeting. I can't say that I'm happy about it." https://t.co/3EcvHLphoM pic.twitter.com/bKGJ1cRUla
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 22, 2018
Trump’s description of Kim as “serious” about denuclearization piqued the media’s curiosity. Has Trump spoken directly with Kim? Trump gave an even more curious answer:
— ABC News (@ABC) May 22, 2018
“I don’t want to say that” sounds an awful lot like yes. Hmmmmm.
South Korea’s government sees the glass as half-full … or almost full to the brim, actually:
The upcoming summit between North Korea and the United States will go on as scheduled despite fresh tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Seoul’s top security official said here Monday.
Chung Eui-yong, chief of the presidential National Security Office, made the remarks aboard Air Force One bound for Washington, where President Moon Jae-in is to hold a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
“We believe there is a 99.9 percent chance the North Korea-U.S. summit (set for June 12 in Singapore) will be held as scheduled,” Chung told reporters. “But we’re just preparing for many different possibilities.”
Maybe that depends on how many more meetings Kim has with Xi. After all, Kim can still be “serious” about denuclearization if he’s seriously opposed to it, in which case there isn’t much point to a summit. Trump all but said the same thing today, perhaps putting both Kim and Xi on notice that he’s not so married to the summit as to surrender concessions on the main sticking point. If Kim wants economic assistance, he’ll need to trade the nukes, full stop.