- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2018

President Trump said Thursday that his best asset will be “attitude” when he sits down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Singapore summit next week to negotiate the end of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Days away from the historic meeting, Mr. Trump said that after months of briefings, he has studied the issue as much as he can.

“I don’t think I have to prepare very much,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “It’s about the attitude. It’s about willingness to get things done. But I think I’ve been preparing for the summit for a long time.”

He expressed optimism that Mr. Kim wants to make a denuclearization deal in the talks, which begin Tuesday.

“I really believe that Kim Jong-un wants to do something. I think he wants to see something incredible happen for the people of North Korea,” the president said at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Mr. Trump wants to forge a relationship with Mr. Kim in Singapore that will be the foundation of a historic deal that dismantles Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and brings the secluded communist regime into the community of free nations.

The president conferred Thursday at the White House with Mr. Abe, a key partner in Mr. Trump’s efforts to force the communist nation to abandon its nuclear weapons program and its missiles, which also threaten Japan. Mr. Abe said he received assurances from Mr. Trump that he will press Mr. Kim for progress on the issue of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens.

As he prepares to leave Washington Friday for a Group of Seven summit in Canada before traveling to Singapore, the president was upbeat about the prospects for eventually striking a denuclearization deal with North Korea. He said he envisions “a terrific success or a modified success,” but he stressed that he is ready to walk away from the talks at any point.

“I’m totally prepared to walk away — I did it once before,” he said, referring to his cancellation of the summit two weeks ago in the face of hostile North Korean rhetoric.

He said the world will know whether his showdown with Mr. Kim has failed if he emerges from the summit uttering the words “maximum pressure,” a signal for tougher U.S. sanctions against Pyongyang.

“If you hear me saying we’re going to use maximum pressure, you’ll know the negotiation did not do well, frankly,” Mr. Trump said. He has stopped using the phrase in recent weeks as negotiations progress toward the summit.

The meeting with Mr. Abe was part of the groundwork. The Japanese are Americans’ closest allies in the region and have their own security at stake in a North Korea deal.

Mr. Abe said he asked Mr. Trump to raise Japanese concerns, such as addressing Pyongyang’s short-range missiles that threaten the island nation and North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens over several decades.

“A major step forward is about to be taken,” Mr. Abe said in the Rose Garden. “President Trump, you are about to make a new history. Not only Japan, but the whole international community is strongly looking forward for the United States-North Korea summit to open doors toward peace and stability of the northeast Asia.”

Expectations run high for the summit, which will be the first time a U.S. president and a North Korean leader have met.

Mr. Trump broke with longtime U.S. policy in agreeing to the summit, and the move chalked up early progress. Pyongyang agreed to halt nuclear and missile tests, destroy a nuclear test site and send home three U.S. citizens who had been imprisoned by Mr. Kim’s totalitarian government.

A successful summit could include North Korea’s commitment to complete denuclearization and an agreement to formally end the Korean War, which has been in a standoff across the Demilitarized Zone for 65 years.

Success would also be an agreement to hold more meetings, which Mr. Trump has said will be necessary to reach a deal for the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons facilities.

Analysts estimate a complete dismantling of the North’s extensive nuclear weapons program could take as long as 10 years.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has met with Mr. Kim twice in North Korea in the past two months, said the reclusive leader has “indicated to me personally that he is prepared to denuclearize.”

He said Mr. Kim told him “that he understands that the current model doesn’t work, that he’s prepared to denuclearize — and that, too, he understands that we can’t do it the way we’ve done it before — that this has to be big and bold, and we have to agree to making major changes.”

Mr. Pompeo downplayed the suggestion that Mr. Trump is not worrying about details of the negotiations.

“The president continues to follow every development closely and is getting daily briefings from his national security team,” Mr. Pompeo said.

“Over months and months, days and days, President Trump has been receiving briefings on this issue about the military aspects of it; the commercial, economic aspects of it; the history of the relationship. And in the past few months, there have been near-daily briefings.”

Mr. Pompeo, who served until this spring as CIA director, said the goal of the talks remains completely and verifiably eliminating North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs. Until then, he said, the U.S. and its allies will keep pressing economic sanctions that will prevent North Korea from emerging as a prosperous state.

“President Trump and Chairman Kim will certainly also discuss security assurances for [North Korea], establishing a peace regime and improving relations between our two countries,” Mr. Pompeo said. “Until we achieve our goals, the measures that the world, alongside the United States, has put on the regime will remain. In the event diplomacy does not move in the right direction, these measures will increase.”

Mr. Trump is also ready to increase sanctions if Mr. Kim refuses to give up nuclear weapons or attempts a deception, as North Korea has done after four denuclearization deals with past presidents.

The U.S. has not lifted any of the sanctions on North Korea, but the administration has put new sanctions on hold pending the outcome of the summit.

“We have a list of over 300 massive, in some cases, sanctions to put on North Korea, and I’ve decided to hold that until we can make a deal,” said Mr. Trump. “Because I really believe there’s a potential to make a deal. And I just don’t think it’s nice, going in under those circumstances.”

He rejected remarks from Bill Richardson former ambassador to the United Nations, and other Democrats that the summit will be largely for show.

“It’s going to be much more than a photo-op,” the president said. “I think it’s a process. I think it’s not a one-meeting deal.”

He said of North Korea, “They’ve been preparing for a long time also. So this isn’t a question of preparation; it’s a question of whether or not people want it to happen, and we’ll know that very quickly.”

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