- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2018

President Trump said Wednesday night he’s prepared to walk away from the bargaining table at an historic summit with Kim Jong-un if he feels the North Korean leader isn’t negotiating in good faith over giving up his nuclear weapons.

“If I think it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “If the meeting, when I’m there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.”

The president plans to meet with Mr. Kim in late May or early June to discuss denuclearization of the communist nation, which has also been testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and raising its threats against the U.S. and its allies.

Mr. Trump revealed Wednesday that he dispatched CIA Director Mike Pompeo earlier this month to meet with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for a summit between the two leaders. The president said that meeting went “very smoothly.”

“We have come a long way with North Korea,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime.”

Previous U.S. administrations have failed to persuade North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons, with Pyongyang backing out of promised concessions after obtaining shipments of food or other humanitarian aid from the U.S. Mr. Trump said he’s well aware of North Korea’s reputation of bargaining in bad faith.

“I think we”re going to be successful,” he said. “But, if for any reason I feel we’re not, we end.”

Mr. Abe, who is pressing Mr. Trump to raise the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens, said he’s hopeful the summit will be successful.

“We strongly hope for a breakthrough,” Mr. Abe said through a translator. “There could be a path to settle the unfortunate past.”

Three U.S. citizens are still being held by North Korea — Kim Sang-duk and Kim Hak-song, who have been held more than a year, and Kim Dong-chul, who was detained in 2015 for unknown reasons.

The president said the U.S. is “negotiating now” to gain their release.

“They do have three prisoners,” he said. “We have been talking about them. It’s harsh treatment. We’re having a very good dialogue. I think there’s a good chance.”

The president said he wants North Korea to abandon its nuclear-weapons program in a “complete and verifiable and irreversible way.”

A plan being floated among Japan, the U.S. and South Korea is aimed at the complete denuclearization of North Korea by the summer of 2020, diplomatic sources say, while Pyongyang is pursuing a phased approach in exchange for benefits.

In another potential breakthrough, Mr. Kim will hold a summit next week with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The two sides are pursing a formal peace treaty to end the war that began in 1950.

Mr. Trump has been saying the U.S. has no choice but to try to reach a deal with nuclear-armed Pyongyang after years of failure and hostilities.

“We hope to see the day when the whole Korean peninsula can live together in safety, prosperity and peace,” he said. “We hope it all works out, we’ll be trying very hard.”

The president thanked Mr. Abe for working with the U.S. to keep economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang to come to the negotiating table.

“Our campaign of maximum pressure will continue until North Korea denuclearizes. We have to end nuclear weapons ideally in all parts of the world,” Mr. Trump said.

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