Donald Trump said Friday that a meeting with Kim Jong-un could be back on after North Korea recommitted to talks at "any time". The U.S. president had announced that he was pulling out of a June 12 face-to-face with the dictator.
"We're talking to them right now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it. We're gonna see what happens," he told reporters as he departed the White House for Annapolis, Maryland.
A day after calling off the planned nuclear disarmament summit with North Korea, Trump said talks in Singapore "could even be the 12th" as originally planned, reports Daily Mail.
Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for the president, clarified after that "there are no plans" for the White House advance team to return to Singapore this weekend for planning meetings after an incident last week in which a U.S. official says Trump aides were 'stood up' by Pyongyang's representatives.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said later in the day that "certainly we'd like to have a meeting, but the president's not just looking to have a meeting, he's not looking for just a cheap political stunt, he wants to get something that's a long lasting and actual real solutions".
She noted the United States has said it would be willing to take another look at it "if they're ready to do that".
Earlier Friday morning Trump hinted that he could return to the negotiating table in a tweet that said: "Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea. We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!"
The president in another message ripped into Democrats who he thought were too gleeful that the face-to-face with Kim in Singapore was falling through, saying they are "so obviously rooting against us in our negotiations with North Korea" and have "lost touch".
Stopping to talk to press as he left the White House residence for a commencement event at the United States Naval Academy, Trump said the North Koreans had released a 'very nice statement' about talks and it's clear both sides would like to have them.
He was referring to a North Korean foreign ministry official's comment early Friday to state-run news agency KCNA, "We would like to make known to the US side once again that we have the intent to sit with the US side to solve problem(s) regardless of ways at any time".
Asked by a reporter if he believes North Korea is playing games, President Trump said, "Everybody plays games. You know that better than anybody."
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert likewise told reporters traveling to and from Annapolis with the president, "We always knew there would be twists and turns leading up to this meeting on June 12. We never expected it to be easy, so none of this comes as a surprise to us."
She said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton have been coordinating closely and "hope that the meeting will go forward at some point".
"We weren't getting the right signals previously, so hopefully we will in the future. But we didn't want to go to a meeting just for the sake of going to a meeting," she said. "There had to be something to come out of it. so we weren't getting the right signals."
Nauert said she was not aware of any conversations with the North Koreans since the conciliatory statement, contradicting Trump.
And her sunny version of coordination between Pompeo and Bolton runs counter to news reports that cast the secretary of state as Trump's "good cop" and Bolton as a 'bad' aggressor, determined to get the better of Pyongyang.
NBC News reported Friday that the two went head-to-head over whether Trump should withdraw from the Singapore summit, with Bolton urging him to send a stern message by pulling the plug.
Pompeo blamed Bolton for working overtime to undo the diplomatic progress he had made with successive trips to North Korea for his own in-person meeting with the unpredictable despot.
Ultimately, Trump dictated Thursday's letter directly to Bolton after he made his decision.
Gidley told reporters at the White House that the administration is in constant contact with all the folks we deal with on an international stage' and this is no different.
He sidestepped a direct question about whether North Korea had ended the "radio silence" that U.S. officials were complaining about just yesterday.
"I'm not going to get into any talks we may or may not be having right now," the Trump spokesman said.
Trump had previously warned Kim that the United States military stands ready to jump into the breach if he tries anything "foolish".
"Hopefully everything's going to work out well with North Korea, and a lot of things can happen, including the fact that perhaps – and we'd wait – it's possible that the existing summit could take place or a summit at some later date," Trump said before a bill-signing event Thursday in the White House's Roosevelt Room.
"Nobody should be anxious," he counseled. "We have to get it right".
Moments earlier he declared that he had "decided to terminate" the meeting and challenged dictator the dictator Kim to scrap his nuclear ambitions in favor of joining the civilized world and escaping the West's economic stranglehold.
"All of the Korean people, North and South, deserve to be able to live together in harmony, prosperity and peace," Trump said. "That bright and beautiful future can only happen when the threat of nuclear weapons is removed. No way it can happen otherwise."
"If and when Kim Jong-un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting," he continued, punctuating the last three words.
"In the meantime, our very strong sanctions, by far the strongest sanctions ever imposed, and maximum pressure campaign, will continue as it has been continuing."
Sanders declined to go into further detail about what it would take for Trump to put the summit back as she spoke to reporters Friday afternoon following a television appearance.
She did not have a daily press briefing on Friday but took several questions from reporters hounding her about the status of talks.
"I think he laid that out pretty clearly in his letter yesterday," she said of the president's demands. "I don't think he could be any more clear."
Trump said in the letter that he hoped to meet Kim, one day, and that previous dialogues between the two nations remained promising.
"If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write," he said. "The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history."
The letter also boasted of America's gargantuan nuclear arsenal -- a point Trump drove home later at the White House.
"I've spoke to General Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff," he said. "And our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere the world – that has been greatly enhanced recently, as you all know – is ready if necessary."
"Likewise I have spoken to South Korea and Japan, and they are not only ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea, but they are willing to shoulder much of the cost of any financial burden, any of the costs associated by the the United States, in operations if such an unfortunate situation is forced upon us."
"Hopefully, positive things will be taking place with respect to the future of North Korea," Trump told an audience of one watching in Pyongyang. "But if they don't, we are more ready than we have ever been before."
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters that the Defense Department represents one prong of Trump's 'maximum pressure' strategy, which combines economic sanctions, diplomatic tension and the weight of a constant military presence.
"We are ready to fight tonight. That's always been the case," said White.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio threw a Twitter jab at Kim, writing that withdrawing from talks "is 100% the right decision".
"In the words of a wise man, 'Congratulations, you just played yourself'," Rubio added, addressing him directly.
"#KJU doesn't want a deal. He has deliberately sabotaged the talks over the last two weeks & was setting us up to take the blame."
On the Democratic side of the aisle, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez chided Trump in a statement that read: "The art of diplomacy is much harder than the art of the deal."
"We should have never legitimized a pariah regime without first setting clear boundaries," Menendez argued. "But in hastily agreeing to a summit and then being the one to walk away, President Trump must understand he has now weakened and further isolated the United States. Our allies and partners in the region are left questioning our reliability. Our leverage is less today than it was yesterday."
Menendez is the highest ranking Democrat on the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.
The president had called off his summit just hours earlier after a North Korean official hurled insults at Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump wrote that it would be "inappropriate" to hold talks after his regime again tested the limits of his patience. "Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place."
"You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never be used," he said for good measure.
North Korea's vice foreign minister had slammed Pence for his "unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya."
Choe Son Hui also said the future of the summit between Pyongyang and Washington was "entirely" up to the United States.
Kim's government had just hours earlier publicly destroyed much of its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
Trump's letter to Kim followed a string of threats from the North to call off the summit that had been brokered to discuss a commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The president told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that he'd know whether he was moving forward with the Singapore summit "next week". That was before North Korea's latest volley, which included the assault on Pence.
"We will neither beg the U.S. for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us," said Choe, according to a report by North Korea's central news agency on Thursday.
She added: "I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president."
"We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is (Pence), as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them."
Pence was a focal point in the initial stages of diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea.
He attended the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympic Games in February alongside Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong. He did not talk to the North Korean emissary during the games, instead previewing during the trip another round of U.S. sanctions.
In a Monday in an interview with Fox News that came as the summit hung in the balance, Pence responded to North Korean complaints about comments that had been made by Trump national security advisor John Bolton.
"You know, there was some talk of the Libyan model last week. And as the president made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn't make a deal," he said.
Pence warned, "It would be a great mistake for Kim to think he could play Donald Trump."
I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president. We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is (Pence), as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them.
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"We really hope that Kim Jong-un will seize the opportunity to dismantle his nuclear weapons program, and do so by peaceable means."
In the letter calling off the June 12 summit, Trump indicated he'd be open to putting a new date on the calendar for talks with Kim, who he again thanked for releasing three American hostages earlier this month.
"I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters," he said. "Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated."
Pompeo was testifying on Capitol Hill on Thursday, in what was slated to be a hearing about the State Department's budget, when the White House circulated Trump's letter.
"I don't believe ... that we're in a position to believe that there could be a successful outcome," he told Senate Foreign Relations Committee members. "I think that's what the president communicated pretty clearly in his letter."
Pompeo said that the U.S. had reached out to North Korea about its own threats to cancel talks, "and we had received no response to our inquiries from them".
"I think the American team is fully prepared. I think we're rocking. I think we're ready. I think we're prepared for this meeting. I think President Trump is prepared for this meeting," he said.
"We were fully, fully engaged over the past weeks to prepare for this meeting. So I disagree with your assessment that the Americans are not ready."
Trump's decision to postpone the nuclear summit was cautiously endorsed by Sen. Democratic leader Chuck Schumer as the Senate came into session on Thursday.
"On the very recent news that President Trump has canceled the planned summit with Kim Jong-un of North Korea: The fear many of us had was that the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un would be a great show that produced nothing enduring," Schumer stated. "If a summit is to be reconstituted, the United States must show strength and achieve a concrete, verifiable, enduring elimination of Kim Jong-un's nuclear capabilities."
Pompeo said on Wednesday that Trump was prepared to "walk away" from the talks if it sensed that they're headed in the wrong direction.
The diplomat who has twice met with Kim in North Korea since the beginning of April told lawmakers during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, "We have a generational opportunity to solve a major national security challenge."
"We are clear-eyed about the regime's history. It's time to solve this once and for all. A bad deal is not an option," the president's point-man on the summit asserted. "The American people are counting on us to get this right. If the right deal is not on the table, we will respectfully walk away."
Revisiting the topic on Thursday at a Senate hearing, Pompeo said, "I've had discussions with Chairman Kim personally. There have been other discussions. I am going to reserve some space for us to be able to conduct these discussions outside of the public sphere ... I think we've made very clear what our objectives are."
Trump on Tuesday in the Oval Office told journalists asking about the June 12 summit, "We're moving along. We'll see what happens. There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we'll get those conditions."
He added, "And if we don't, we won't have the meeting."
"If it doesn't happen, maybe it will happen later," Trump said. "Maybe it will happen at a different time."
The U.S. president also said, "There's a very substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's OK."
South Korea's Moon Jae-in and Trump were meeting at the White House at the time to discuss the North's new demands.
Trump is said to have surveyed aides the optics of Kim's own threats to cancel the June 12 meeting with Moon in a weekend phone call.
He did not do the South Korean leader the courtesy of calling him to let him know the summit was off before the White House published its letter, though, it has been reported to the ally's shock and awe.
The U.S. president said this week that the believes that Kim's surprise visit to Beijing in early May prompted the North Korean dictator to play chicken.
Trump said his trip to Beijing last year was "two of the great days of my life".
"I don't think anybody's ever been treated better in China in their history."
But he said his counterpart in China, Xi Jinping, "I think that President Xi is a world-class poker player."
"I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong-un. So I don't like that," he said. "I can't say that I'm happy about it," he said of the unexpected talks between Xi and Kim.
Kim began taunting the U.S. since last week over annual military exercises on the Korean Peninsula that are conducted in conjunction with South Korea. The joint exercises were a condition of talks, however the North decided to use them anyway as a cudgel.
The isolated regime also took issue with past statements that Bolton about denuclearization, leading the U.S. president to provide assurances last week that Kim would not be ousted if he abandons his nuclear weapons program.
North Korea's deputy foreign affairs minister rejected the United States' terms of nuclear abandonment, shunning the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" of the Korean Penninsula and the "total decommissioning of nuclear weapons, missiles, biochemical weapons."
He explicitly took issue with the U.S. position of "abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards" saying the proposed terms are "essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers."
Trump said that he would not budge on total denuclearization of the peninsula and said, "I do think he's serious. I think he would like to see that happen."
In advance of the letter informing North Korea that the summit was off, the White House had faced charges that Trump was becoming Kim's puppet.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Sanders told a reporter asking if the dictator was the on driving policy in the Trump administration. "But they're the ones that extended the invitation; we've accepted it. If they want to meet, we're happy to do that. If they don't, as the President has said, we'll see what happens. But we're going to continue the maximum pressure campaign in the meantime."
Trump said last week that he was willing to go "onto the next step" if Kim backed away from the summit. He also said he was willing to guarantee that Kim would stay in power if he agrees to give up his nuclear ambitions.
"I'm willing to do a lot... He'll have protections," Trump said. "The best thing he could do is make a deal."
Providing assurances to Kim, Trump said that the deal he intends to make with North Korea would keep the dictator in power. He said that Kim wouldn't be ousted like Libya's Muammar Gaddafi was after he voluntarily dismantled his nuclear program in order to normalize relations with the U.S.
"In Libya that deal was decimated. There was no deal to keep Gaddafi," he said. "The Libyan model was a much different model. We decimated that country. We never said to Gaddafi, 'Oh, we're going to give you protection. We're going to give you military strength. We're going to give you all of these things.' We went in and decimated him, and we did the same thing with Iraq."
With Kim it would be "something where he'd be there, he'd be running his country. His country would be very rich," Trump said.
"If we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un will be very, very happy," he said.