WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Friday that the June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is back on, as officials from both countries worked to save the on-again, off-gain meeting in Singapore after weeks of uncertainty.
Trump made the announcement — a week after he canceled the summit — following an Oval Office meeting with Kim’s lieutenant, Kim Yong Chol, who was delivering a letter from his country’s leader, and that ended up lasting more than an hour.
“We’re meeting with the chairman on June 12th,” said Trump, accompanied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, afterward. “And I think it’s probably going to be a very successful — ultimately, a successful process.”
Last week, Trump had abruptly canceled the historic Singapore meeting arranged by U.S. and North Korean officials after North Korea sent a bellicose letter critical of Vice President Mike Pence. Trump’s action prompted North Korea to send a conciliatory response the next day seeking to hold the meeting as scheduled, and Trump said he was open to that idea.
“They want it,” Trump said Friday. “We think it’s important, and I think we would be making a big mistake if we didn’t have it.”
Trump said he did not expect the North Korean dictator to agree to denuclearization in the Singapore meeting, but added that the U.S. goal in the unconventional negotiations would come eventually during a longer process and more meetings.
“He’d like to see it happen. He wants to be careful,” Trump said of Kim.
Until Kim agrees to denuclearization, Trump added, the U.S. sanctions on North Korea will remain as they are now. But Trump also promised he would ensure security for both Kim and the North Korean regime if he does close down his nuclear weapons program.
Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un would be the first between a U.S. president and a North Korean leader since the division of the Korean Peninsula after an armistice was signed in July, 1953, following a civil war.
Trump said one possible outcome of the summit might be an end to the Korean War. “We did discuss that,” Trump said. “And there is a possibility of something like that.”
Trump said one issue not discussed in the Oval Office was human rights. But he said that “we probably will, and maybe in great detail,” during the June 12 summit.
Trump also said his efforts are being helped by China and involve South Korea and Japan. But Trump said he didn’t like that Kim Jong Un had met Thursday in Pyongyang with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Pompeo had met in New York City with Kim Yong Chol on Thursday, paving the way for Friday’s visit to the White House. Pompeo previously traveled to North Korea and met with Kim Jong Un twice, in April and May.
Kim Yong Chol became the first North Korean to visit the White House since 2000. Trump read the letter he delivered from his leader after talking to reporters on the South Lawn, but the White House did not disclose what Kim Jong Un wrote. Trump left Friday afternoon for a weekend at Camp David.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Louisville warned Trump to be dispassionate about North Korea. “If you fall in love with the deal, and it’s too important for you to get it, and the details become less significant,” McConnell said, “you could get snookered.”
Trump did not clarify on Friday what a deal on North Korea’s nuclear weapons would look like or when it might become possible.
U.S. defense and intelligence officials have repeatedly assessed the North to be on the threshold of having the capability to strike anywhere in the continental U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile — a capacity that Trump and other U.S. officials have said they would not tolerate.