TrumpWatch, Day 498: Trump — My Summit with Kim is Back On

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Donald Trump stands with a very large letter, delivered by North Korean senior official Kim Yong-Chol, at the White House, June 1, 2018

Trump proclaims he will have photo opportunity despite little substance over issues


“This Letter is Very Good…I’ll Read It Later”

Donald Trump proclaims that he will have his June 12 summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore after all.

Nine days ago, Trump abruptly said that he had written Kim to cancel the summit, after North Korea drew a firm line over giving up its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles and hit back at US statements about a “Libyan model” that pointed to possible regime change.

But within 24 hours, Trump was telling reporters that the summit might proceed. Within 48 hours, he was blatantly lying that a senior US official had said to journalists that the meeting in Singapore was unlikely to be held at such short notice, declaring that the National Security Council staffer was a “phony source”.

US officials then scrambled to save Trump’s personal encounter, meeting North Koreans in Singapore. One of Kim’s highest-ranking allies, Kim Yong-chol, the former head of North Korea’s intelligence services, then came to Washington with a personal letter on Friday.

In an apparent move to win over Trump and his ego, the North Koreans put the letter in a very large envelope, held gleefully by the President as he posed for a photograph with the envoy.

Trump said after meeting the envoy for 90 minutes:

We’re over that, totally over that, and now we’re going to deal and we’re going to really start a process. We’re meeting with the chairman on June 12, and I think it’s probably going to be a very successful — ultimately, a successful process.

In a moment capturing his propensity to stray from the truth, Trump hailed a “very nice, very interesting” letter — only to say several minutes later that he hadn’t yet opened it.

Trump said economic sanctions will remain in place, but he did not press the demand for denuclearization — “I know they want to do that” — and backed away from his proclamation of“maximum pressure”:

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. You see the relationship. We’re getting along. So it’s not a question of maximum pressure. It’s staying essentially the way it is.

Trump also withdrew his previous declarations that the summit will feature a deal, now portraying the meeting as the start of a “process”:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we walked out and everything was settled all of a sudden from sitting down for a couple of hours? No, I don’t see that happening. But I see over a period of time. And frankly, I said, “Take your time.”

Only last week Trump said North Korea had to dismantle its nuclear weapons arsenal “over a very short period of time”. Secretary of State Pompeo insisted on “rapid denuclearization, total and complete, that won’t be extended over time”.

While Pompeo joined Trump in Friday’s meeting with Kim Yong-chol, neither National Security Advisor John Bolton nor Vice President Mike Pence — whose statements about a “Libyan model” brought North Korea’s rebuke last week — was present.

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