United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the summit with North Korea was “honest, direct and protective”. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and he have spent “intensive hours together”, Trump said.
Trump was speaking at a press conference in Singapore after a day of meetings with Kim. This was the first meeting between the heads of government of the two countries. The summit and the joint declaration that was signed is a “very important event” in world history, he said. “I want to get it completed,” he added. “If you don’t get the ball over the goal line, it doesn’t mean enough.”
Trump said Kim was “already destroying a major missile site”. This detail, however, is not a part of the joint declaration put out by the two leaders earlier in the day, he said, adding that it was decided after the document was created. “Chairman Kim has before him an opportunity like no other to be remembered as the leader who ushered in a glorious new era of prosperity for his people,” Trump said.
When asked why the United States didn’t get a commitment from North Korea to “complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation”, Trump said there wasn’t time. “I’m here for one day. The process is now going to take place,” he added. The US has “pretty good intelligence” to know that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal “is pretty substantial”, he said, but added that the country will denuclearise soon.
Trump also claimed that he didn’t want to be “threatening” to North Korea during the negotiations.
Thanking Kim for taking a “bold step” for his people, Trump said “real change is possible”. “Adversaries can indeed become friends,” Trump said. “There is no limit to what North Korea can achieve when it gives up nuclear weapons and embraces commerce.”
The sanctions against North Korea will currently stay in place but they will come off as soon as “we are sure the nukes are no longer a factor”, Trump said. “I actually look forward to taking them off.” However, when asked about the timeline, he said denuclearisation “takes a long time scientifically”.
Trump added that he and Kim discussed human rights, albeit briefly. “We did discuss it today, pretty strongly,” Trump said. “We’ll be doing something on it. It’s rough in a lot of places.”
Trump added that he will invite Kim to visit the White House at an “appropriate time”, and that he is also open to visiting Pyongyang.
The United States will be ending joint military exercises with South Korea soon. “We have done exercises for a long period of time, working with South Korea. We call them war games. They’re tremendously expensive,” Trump said. “South Korea contributes, but not 100%. We have to talk to many countries about treating us fairly. The war games are very expensive, we pay for a big majority of them.”
He added that it is “a very provocative situation” for North Korea. “We’re negotiating a very complicated deal...I think it’s inappropriate to have war games.”
What if Kim doesn’t fulfil promises?
When asked what he would do if the North Korean leader does not follow through on the promises made in the joint declaration, Trump said: “No I think he’ll do it. I really believe it. I think honestly he’s going to do these things.” He then added: “I may be wrong. I may stand before you in six months and say ‘hey I was wrong’.”
The day so far
The two leaders had met earlier in the day before leading delegation-level talks on the resort island of Sentosa. Trump said he had a “terrific day” and called Kim a “very talented man” and a “worthy, smart negotiator” who “loves his country very much”. The US president said he was “absolutely willing” to invite Kim to the White House.
Since the Korean War in the 1950s, the leaders of the two countries have never met or even spoken on the phone. However, following months of threats, economic sanctions and criticism of its nuclear programme, North Korea proposed the meeting and Trump accepted the invitation in March.
The meeting comes just months after the two leaders exchanged ridicule, insults and threats against each other. Trump had called Kim a “mad man” and the “Little Rocket Man”, and had warned North Korea of “fire and fury”. Kim had called Trump a “mentally deranged dotard”.