WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump intends to meet one-on-one briefly with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the beginning of their June 12 summit — a moment the president has said will be a critical gauge of whether a deal is likely, according to a U.S. official familiar with their plans.
Trump said Saturday he thinks he’ll know “within the first minute” if Kim is serious about giving up his nuclear arsenal and whether “something positive will happen.” The current plan is for Trump and Kim to be alone for that first minute, although likely with translators in the room.
Trump and Kim will be joined later by their closest aides, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, the official said. White House officials were told that Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong — who represented North Korea in a diplomatic overture at the Winter Olympics — will also be present in Singapore.
The summit is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Singapore time on Tuesday. The plan is to wrap up the meeting in the evening and, if things go well, for there to be a joint declaration, according to another U.S. official. The summit is unlikely to go beyond June 12, the official added.
“I feel that Kim Jong Un wants to do something great for his people,” Trump said at a press conference in Charlevoix, Canada, where he attended a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven nations. “It’s a one-time shot and I think it’s going to work out very well.”
“There’s a good chance it won’t work out,” Trump said. “There’s probably an even better chance it will take a period of time.”
Trump’s comments, made shortly before his departure for Singapore, underline his recent efforts to curb expectations for the summit, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader. Trump has recently tamped down his threats of continued “maximum pressure” on Kim over his weapons program, and indicated any verifiable denuclearization could take time.
Still, the gulf between the U.S. and North Korea remains vast. Kim is seeking security guarantees and relief from economic sanctions. Trump wants Kim to dismantle his nuclear arsenal entirely, thus giving up his only real deterrent and bargaining chip.
Kim has the “opportunity” to make a deal with the U.S., Trump said Saturday, but he “won’t have that opportunity again.” He called Kim an “unknown personality.”
“The minimum would be a relationship — you’d start at least a dialogue,” Trump added, when asked about outcomes. “As a deal person, that is important.”
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will meet with Kim on June 10 and with Trump on June 11 ahead of their summit, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Two former senators — Sam Nunn, now a prominent nuclear nonproliferation campaigner, and Richard Lugar — met Tuesday with Trump and suggested he put forward a plan with Kim that is modeled on Kazakhstan, according to the first U.S. official.
North Korea last month slammed Bolton, who is intensely disliked by the Kim regime, after he said the country could follow a “Libya model” for disarmament. While arms control advocates cite Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s 2011 decision to give up his weapons of mass destruction in exchange for an easing of sanctions as a success, North Korea views his subsequent death at the hands of NATO-backed rebels as a cautionary tale.
When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, some of its nuclear weaponry was left in former republics Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and all three — eventually — arranged for the armaments to be eliminated or transferred to Russia. Kazakhstan secured security assurances from multiple countries before giving up its Soviet-era weapons.
Trump refuted suggestions on Saturday he had already given Kim a win by agreeing to even have the meeting. Isolated North Korea has long craved international recognition and the prestige of being seen as a nuclear state. In recent months, Kim has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“What has been done before hasn’t worked,” Trump said, accusing “haters” of saying he was gifting Kim the meeting.
“We just got three hostages back,” Trump said. “We paid nothing.”