May 22, 2018
President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that a planned historic meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un could be delayed. He said, “There’s a very substantial chance that it won’t work out” for June 12.
Trump raised the possibility that the meeting could be pushed back during a White House meeting with South Korea President Moon Jae-in, trying to co-ordinate strategy as concerns mounted over ensuring a successful outcome for the North Korea summit.

Trump told reporters: “If it doesn’t happen, maybe it happens later,” reflecting recent setbacks in efforts to bring about reconciliation between the two Koreas. The North pulled out of planned peace talks with the South last week, objecting to long-scheduled joint military exercises between U.S. and Republic of Korea forces. And the North threatened to abandon the planned Trump-Kim meeting over U.S. insistence on denuclearizing the peninsula, issuing a harshly worded missive that the White House dismissed as a negotiating ploy.
“There are certain conditions that we want,” Trump said Tuesday. He added if they aren’t met, “we won’t have the meeting.” He declined to elaborate on those conditions.
Moon said in the Oval Office that the “fate and the future” of the Korean Peninsula hinged on the talks, telling the U.S. president that they were “one step closer” to the dream of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
Trump said he’d noticed “a little change” in Kim Jong Un’s “attitude” after Kim took a second trip to China this month in the run-up to the summit. “I don’t like that,” Trump said.
Trump suggests historic North Korea summit in June could be delayed
Trump said he hoped that Chinese President Xi Jinping was committed to the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, calling him a world-class poker player. But he said he was displeased by China’s softening of border enforcement measures against North Korea.
Trump encouraged Kim to seize the opportunity for the meeting and to make a deal to abandon his nuclear program, pledging not only to guarantee Kim’s personal security, but also predicting an economic revitalization for the North.
“I will guarantee his safety, yes,” Trump said, if Kim agrees to complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization. He said if an agreement is reached, China, Japan and South Korea would invest large sums to “make North Korea great.”
Trump said the long-term status of the peninsula will be up to the North and South, and that the immediate goal for his summit is “two successful Koreas.”
He added, “Ultimately, maybe someday in the future” you’ll “go back to one Korea.”
The two Koreas both seek reunification of the divided Korean Peninsula on their own terms but it has always been a distant aspiration because of the incompatibility of their political systems and their mutual suspicion. Any move toward reunification would first likely require a peace settlement to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which the two Koreas say they are aiming for.
Fresh questions were raised Tuesday about North Korea’s goals and motives, with a Pentagon report to Congress that says nuclear weapons are central to North Korea’s strategic goal of ensuring the perpetual the rule of the Kim family dynasty. The report on North Korea’s military capabilities was based on an assessment of developments in 2017 and was provided to Congress in April. It was posted online by an anti-secrecy group.
North Korea threw a wrench in the plans last week, threatening to cancel over concerns about the U.S. push to see the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Administration officials viewed the warning as bluster, akin to Trump’s own promise to walk away if Kim isn’t serious about denuclearization. Both sides, they said, have a vested interest in a successful meeting.
Trump attempted to assuage Kim’s concerns last week, promising “protections” should he abandon his nuclear weapons. But Trump also suggested Kim risks being overthrown and possibly death if the arsenal remains.
Two former Trump administration officials said the high degree of uncertainty surrounding the talks benefits Kim, who stands to gain the most in the form of international legitimacy from a sit-down with Trump.
Concrete gains for Trump would be slower to emerge. Denuclearization programs are measured in months, not days, and for North Korea, which has already demonstrated thermonuclear capability, it would likely take years to dismantle and verify that it had abandoned its atomic efforts, should it agree to do so.
One official said the priority of the talks in Singapore would be to reach a topline understanding with Kim, with details to be fleshed out later.
The best-case scenario, experts said, would mirror the Iran-nuclear agreement that Trump withdrew from earlier this month — securing an end to the North’s atomic program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions. Such an agreement could provide Kim more assurances that his leadership would be secure.
While public jockeying last week led to speculation about whether the meeting will happen, people close to Trump say he does want it to take place.
Victor Cha, a professor at Georgetown University and former White House official, said the best outcome would be “good optics, good atmospherics, some broad statements on denuclearization and peace, and some immediate deliverable.” He said the worst-case scenario was cancelling the meeting.
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