WASHINGTON — President Trump said Thursday he could offer Kim Jong-un “protection” if the North Korean dictator agrees to strike a denuclearization deal.
Trump responded further to North Korea’s threats to pull out of the summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
North Korea expressed anger over regularly scheduled military drills between the U.S. and South Korea, Max Thunder, that reportedly involved B-52 bombers and F-15K jets. Pyongyang also wants the U.S. to drop any push toward North Korean denuclearization.
“If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” said North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan.
At a White House meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump said nothing had changed on North Korea “that we know of.”
“We have not been told anything, and if it does, that’s fine. I think we’ll probably have a very successful meeting. But we have not been told anything. We’re just reading stories like you are. We’ve heard certain things from South Korea,” he said.
“We’ll see what happens. Look, you have to want to do it. With deals, that’s what I do, is deals. And with deals, you have to have two parties that want to do it. He absolutely wanted to do it. Perhaps he doesn’t want to do it. Perhaps he spoke with China. That could be right. President Xi, a friend of mine, a great guy, but he’s for China and I’m for the United States, and that’s the way it is, and I suspect it’s never going to change.”
With what happened to late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi likely on their minds, North Korea also slammed U.S. officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, for suggesting a “Libya model” of denuclearization. “We don’t hide the repulsion toward him now,” the North Korean government said Wednesday of Bolton.
Trump said Thursday, with Bolton standing in the room, that “the Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all when we’re thinking of North Korea.”
“This would be with Kim Jong-un something where he’d be there. He’d be in his country. He’d be running his country. His country would be very rich,” the president said.
“If you look at that model with Gadhafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. 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. I really believe he’s going to very happy. But this is just the opposite,” he added.
“And I think when John Bolton made that statement, he was talking about if we’re going to be having a problem, because we cannot let that country have nukes. We just can’t do it. So that’s the way it’s meant. It’s really just the opposite. Because if you look — again, if you look at Syria, that was a total decimation.”
Trump predicted that he and Kim will “actually have a good relationship, assuming we have the meeting and assuming something comes of it.”
“And he’ll get protections that will be very strong,” he vowed.
Asked if that meant reducing troop levels in South Korea, Trump replied, “Well, I’m not going to talk about that. We’re going to say that he will have very adequate protection. And we’ll see how it all turns out.”
“I think this: The best thing he could ever do is to make a deal. I have a feeling, however, that for various reasons, maybe including trade, because they’ve never had this problem before — China has never had this problem with us — it could very well be that he’s influencing Kim Jong-un,” he added.
North Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, wrote today that the situation “urgently requires” that they “decisively cope with the imperialists’ psychological campaign,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
“The DPRK is demonstrating its might as the power of Juche despite any tempests,” the article added.