Trump Shifts Stance on Korea Summit from 'Off' to 'Maybe'

Saul Bowman
May 27, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump dangled the possibility on Friday that a June 12 summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, could still take place, just a day after he canceled the meeting citing Pyongyang's "open hostility".

For weeks now - ever since TV pictures of a charming-looking Kim Jong-un captivated South Koreans - people have flocked to observation posts like the one at Odusan to peer, curiously, into North Korea.

After the summit between him and South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month, a poll by the Korean Research Center found 78 per cent of South Koreans said Kim is "trustworthy", a big change in attitudes given his previous infamy here.

The meeting at a border truce village of Panmunjom came hours after Seoul expressed relief over revived talks for a summit between Trump and Kim following a whirlwind 24 hours in which US President Donald Trump cancelled the highly anticipated meeting before saying it was potentially back on.

Trump revealed on Friday that the US was still in touch with North Korea, and expressed hope that the two countries could revive the summit, even suggesting that a meeting could still come on June 12.

Editor's Note: In our latest Facebook Live interview (please like our Facebook page to see more of these events) Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest, and Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, discuss whether Trump will actually meet with North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Trump, speaking Friday to graduates at the U.S.

"North Korea will have to propose more detailed plans for denuclearization if it wants to talk in the future", said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.

He also added, "We're talking to them now".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that North Korean officials had stopped communicating with US officials in recent days.


"It could still go well", she said, counting on the North's expressed desire to get talks with the US back on track.

Before Trump scrapped the meeting on Thursday, North Korea said it had completely dismantled its Punggye-ri nuclear test facility "to ensure the transparency of discontinuance" of nuclear testing.

U.S. officials have said they would like to see the complete and irreversible dismantling of the North's nuclear programme and weapons, allowing global inspectors to check every step of that process, before any talk of sanctions being lifted. "We're going to see what happens", he was quoted as saying by the United States media.

In his letter, Trump warned Kim of the United States' greater nuclear might, reminiscent of the president's tweet previous year asserting that he had a "much bigger" nuclear button than Kim.

Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong also attended the meeting, the Blue House confirmed.

But North Korea responded Friday by saying it was willing to talk to the United States "at any time" - a reaction Trump welcomed as "warm and productive".

It was the clearest sign yet that the on-again off-again summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim is likely to be held as initially agreed, in Singapore on June 12th. While there are always "high points and low points" in diplomacy, she said, "we hope that the meeting will go forward at some point". "The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth". If Pyongyang demands these exercises being cancelled, Trump once more needs to hold firm.

"We would like to do it", Trump said of the summit, and "they very much would like to do it".

Washington is seeking the complete and verifiable abandonment of nuclear weapons, while Pyongyang wants what it calls a "phased and synchronous" approach.

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