- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2018

Shifting into dealmaker mode, President Trump extended a potentially enticing offer Thursday to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un: If the dictator gives up his nuclear weapons, he will remain in power, and would even get assurances of “protections” from the U.S.

“He will get protections that are very strong,” the president said from the Oval Office.

The shocking offer — the likes of which had not been made before in public — sought to smooth a major wrinkle in a planned meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim to hash out a nuke deal.

In recent days, North Korea repeatedly threatened to cancel the June 12 summit in Singapore, objecting to ongoing U.S.-South Korea military exercises and the lack of security assurances for North Korea in the Trump administration’s public comments about an agreement.

Mr. Trump shrugged it off.

“Nothing has changed on North Korea that we know of. We have not been told anything, and if it does, that’s fine,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

The two countries continued to work on arrangements for the summit “as if nothing had happened,” said the president.

“We’ll see what happens. If the meeting happens, it happens. And if it doesn’t, we go on to the next step,” said Mr. Trump, taking reporters’ questions at an Oval Office meeting with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.

Mr. Trump held out the threat of military action if North Korea won’t deal. The reclusive kingdom is believed to have stockpiled nuclear weapons and successfully tested a intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

The U.S. pushed North Korea closer to the bargaining table with what Mr. Trump calls a “maximum-pressure” campaign of economic sanctions and help from China, the chief sponsor of the North.

Doubts persist on whether Mr. Kim can be trusted to make a deal and give up his nukes. North Korea’s rulers repeatedly broke past agreements after winning concessions such as economic aid.

Mr. Trump’s remarks about security assurances for Mr. Kim addressed the issue at the heart of threats to scuttle the summit.

North Korea balked at a recent statement by National Security Adviser John R. Bolton that the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program would follow the “Libya model.”

Mr. Bolton was referring to quick and verifiable denuclearization. Mr. Kim heard “regime change.”

Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi gave up his country’s nuclear weapons program, which had not yet produced a bomb, in a 2003 agreement with President George W. Bush and the U.K.

The agreement provided for a quick dismantling of Libya’s relatively small nuclear weapon program with close supervision.

Unsettling for Mr. Kim, however, was that Gaddafi ended up shot and killed by an angry mob during the so-called “Arab Spring” uprising in 2011, with NATO forces and the U.S. lending air support to the revolt.

“This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue. It is essentially a manifestation of an awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq, which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said Wednesday.

Mr. Trump said that Mr. Kim would get assurances of protection that Gaddafi did not.

“The Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all when we’re thinking of North Korea,” he said.

Mr. Trump said the Mr. Kim would be “running his country” and North Korean would be “very rich.”

“His people are tremendously industrious. If you look at South Korea — this would be, really, a South Korean model in terms of their industry, in terms of what they do. They’re hardworking incredible people,” said the president.

However, he followed up the optimism with a threat.

“If you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him,” said Mr. Trump. “Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.”

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