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Trump says Kim meeting is back on: ‘We’re getting along’

The announcement came after the president hosted North Korea’s No. 2 in the Oval Office on Friday.


President Donald Trump held an extraordinary Oval Office meeting with Kim Jong Un’s deputy on Friday, after which he snapped a chummy photo with the North Korean official and announced that the historic summit with Kim is back on.

“We’ll be meeting on June 12 in Singapore,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn after escorting Kim Yong Chol, Kim Jong Un’s second in command, into a vehicle.

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However, Trump tempered expectations for what the meeting in Singapore will yield, saying nothing will be signed during the summit and that it will simply be the beginning of a process toward denuclearizing North Korea.

“It’s a process…We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12 and we never will,” the president said. “We’re going to start a process.”

The meeting was the latest dramatic twist in the lead-up to the summit, which would mark a legacy-affirming foreign policy win for Trump. The president has appeared tempted by the idea that a deal to denuclearize North Korea could earn him a Nobel Peace Prize, but critics have warned that Trump should be highly skeptical of the North Koreans’ intentions and not quickly provide sanctions relief.

Trump delivered his comments after a nearly 80-minute-long meeting with Kim Yong Chol, a former top spy for North Korea, during which the official delivered a personal letter from the dictator to Trump. Noting the longer-than-anticipated conversations, Trump remarked, “This was literally going to be the delivery of a letter and ended up being a two-hour conversation with the second most powerful man in North Korea.”

It was not immediately clear whether Trump had read the personal note from the North Korean leader. Initially asked for his reaction to the letter, Trump told reporters it “was a very nice” and “very interesting letter,” appearing to indicate he was privy to its contents. But Trump later backtracked, saying he intentionally chose not to read it yet. “I haven’t seen the letter yet,” the president said. “I purposely didn’t open the letter. I haven’t opened it.”

The remarks came just over a week after the president called off the meeting, citing “open hostility” displayed by Kim Jong Un’s government after North Korean officials threatened to strike the U.S. with its nuclear arsenal.

Despite pulling out of the summit, Trump and top U.S. officials continued to work towards planning the summit and teased the possibility it might take place as previously scheduled. Trump said as recently as Thursday that “hopefully we’ll have a meeting on the 12th.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a central part of the Oval Office meeting on Friday, which also included chief of staff John Kelly. Pompeo had already held meetings in New York with Kim Yong Chol and other North Korean officials earlier in the week to discuss plans for the summit. But the top U.S. diplomat failed to secure a definitive commitment from North Korea to reenact plans for the summit, prompting skepticism over whether it would truly take place.

A TV in South Korea is pictured. | AP Photo

After posing for photos with the No. 2 North Korean official, Trump told reporters outside the White House that the leaders discussed sanctions and other matters, as well as planning for the summit. He said they did not discuss human rights.

“I think it’s going to be a very great success,” Trump said. “But we’ll see what happens. We’ll see you on June 12.”

He also offered a muddled answer when asked whether the U.S. will continue maximum pressure on North Korea in the run-up to the summit.

“It’s going to remain what it is now. I don’t even want to use the term maximum pressure anymore because I don’t want to use that term. Because, we’re getting along,” Trump said. “You see the relationship. We’re getting along. So it’s not a question of maximum pressure.”

It was the first time a top North Korean official met with a sitting U.S. president in the White House in 18 years, the latest sign of warming relationships between the two countries after a major stumble in discussions the week prior.

The face-to-face with North Korea’s second in command earned nearly wall-to-wall coverage for its duration on the major cable news networks, lending an air of legitimacy to the North Korean regime. The Kim government gained an additional boost from the president’s own remarks, in which he praised the North Koreans as “incredible people” and hailed their efforts in striving to strike a deal with the U.S.

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