President Donald Trump said Friday he will meet with Kim Jong Un in Singapore later this month after all, ending more than a week of uncertainty about whether direct denuclearization talks would go on.
Key North Korean official Kim Yong Chol — who is sanctioned over the 2014 Sony cyberattack — talked to Trump in the Oval Office for more than an hour on Friday and delivered a letter from the North Korean leader. In the letter, Kim Jong Un was expected to show interest in meeting with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Trump told reporters he does not expect the June summit — which was rescheduled after confusion, threats and then diplomacy — will lead to an agreement about Pyongyang dismantling its nuclear and missile programs. He said he sees a framework developing "over a period of time" and more than one meeting.
"I think it'll be a process," he told reporters after the meeting with the top North Korean aide. "I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it's going to be a process."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with a North Korean delegation this week as the Trump administration discussed the possibility of holding the previously scrapped meeting between Trump and Kim. On Thursday, Trump tweeted that his administration had "very good meetings with North Korea."
Last month, Trump canceled the would-be historic summit amid heated rhetoric from the isolated regime. The move sparked more aggressive remarks from Trump and reduced the prospects for a peaceful resolution to efforts to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. Just over a week ago, Trump was warning that a "greatly enhanced" U.S. military stands "ready if necessary" should North Korea take any "reckless" action.
Rescheduling the summit, for now, sets the two parties again on a path toward a peaceful agreement. However, there is still no guarantee the meeting will take place as scheduled.
The ongoing talks not only have implications for avoiding armed conflict but also could have an effect on American efforts to avoid a damaging trade war with China. Beijing is North Korea's most prominent ally. Trump has suggested previous maneuvering on trade and tariffs may have affected efforts to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program.
Asked Friday if Kim wants denuclearization, Trump responded, "I do think so."
"He'd like to see it happen. He wants to be careful," the president said.
The sides still appear to have disagreements to settle, and questions about motivations and trust remain. The U.S. and its allies have applied economic sanctions on Pyongyang to force changes in behavior, and Trump said Friday the U.S. will not lift the measures until denuclearization takes place.
"I look forward to the day when I can take the sanctions off," the president said.
Trump said he told the North Korean delegation he has more sanctions prepared. But the president added he does not want to impose them unless talks break down.
Kim's letter was expected to show interest in meeting Trump without making "any significant concessions or threats," according to the Journal report. Pyongyang has previously scoffed at U.S. insistence that it will give up its nuclear arsenal.
Trump first said Friday that the letter from Kim was "very nice" and "very interesting." However, he later acknowledged he had not yet opened the letter and could be in for a "big surprise."
Trump will go to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland this weekend for briefings about the denuclearization effort. The president said his weekend will be filled with "a little relaxation" and "a lot of work."