President Trump says the United States has engaged in ‘extremely high level’ talks with North Korea and hinted they go all the way up to reclusive dictator Kim Jong-un.
The Washington Post and Reuters then published back-to-back stories on CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s secret visit to Pyongyang to meet with Kim.
Asked by reporters this evening who the senior North Korean officials are that the U.S. is speaking with and if he’d spoken directly to ‘him,’ Trump stopped dead in his tracks, grinned and told them, ‘yes.’
He rolled back the apparent confirmation that he’d personally talked to Kim a few minutes later in another encounter with press, creating confusion about what he’d originally meant.
‘Well let’s leave it a little bit short of that,’ Trump said of direct talks with Kim the second time around. ‘But we have talks at the highest level, and it’s going very well, but we’ll see what happens.’
President Trump says the United States has engaged in ‘extremely high level’ talks with North Korea and hinted they go all the way up to reclusive dictator Kim Jong-un
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders immediately sent out a statement clarifying that the talks were not with Kim himself.
‘The President said the administration has had talks at the highest levels and added that they were not with him directly,’ she said.
The president did not, however, tell reporters that the talks weren’t with Kim. He merely said, ‘Let’s leave it a little bit short of that.’
A half-hour later the Washington Post reported that the CIA director went on a clandestine mission to North Korea to meet with Kim over Easter weekend.
Sanders in a follow up statement did not deny that the trip had taken place.
She simply said, ‘The administration does not comment on the CIA Director’s travel.’
But Pompeo is not just the CIA director. He is also Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.
His confirmation to the position was in danger on Tuesday, already, the Washington Post separately reported as senators on both sides of the aisle said they would be unwilling to vote for him.
At a confirmation hearing last week, Pompeo told senators on the Foreign Relations Committee that he was ‘optimistic that the United States government can set the conditions for that appropriately so that the president and the North Korean leader’ can have a conversation that ‘will set us down the course of achieving a diplomatic outcome that…America and the world so desperately need.’
The president confirmed Tuesday that a face-to-face meeting between himself and Kim were still on track to take place in the next few weeks.
‘I look forward to meeting with Kim Jong-un. And hopefully that will be a success. And maybe it will be, and maybe it won’t be. We don’t know,’ Trump said. ‘But I can say this They do respect us. We are respectful of them. And we’re going to see what happens.’
Unless negotiations go offer the rails, Trump said the talk wold take place in late May or early June in one of five undisclosed locations he said are under consideration.
‘We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea. And I really believe there’s a lot of good will,’ the U.S. president said. ‘As I always say, we’ll see what happens. Because ultimately, it’s the end result that counts.’
Locations under discussion were thought to include, Beijing, Geneva and Panmunjom, a city inside the Demilitarized Zone.
Sweden has also offered to assist with a meeting, and Mongolia’s former president recommended his country’s summit city, Ulaanbaatar.
Neither Pyongyang nor Washington have been publicly ruled out, but experts believe the historic get-together is not likely take place on either leader’s home turf.
US President Donald Trump greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he arrives for talks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida on Tuesday
DEATH GRIP President Trump yanked Abe in for one of his famous locked and loaded handshakes
Trump said during the joint appearance that the U.S. and Japan ‘are locked and we are very unified’ in their approach to North Korea
Trump commented on the scheduled talks with Kim today as he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago for a two-day summit.
Trump said Japan and the U.S. are ‘locked and we are very unified’ when it comes to North Korea.
He delivered the remarks after welcoming Abe to his Palm Beach property for an afternoon meeting that both he and the Japanese leader said yielded great progress on the trade and security issues at hand.
‘On those two points, we actually successfully forged a mutual understanding,’ Abe said. ‘So I’m very happy to see the outcome of our one-on-one discussion.’
An intimate meal with Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Abe will serve a capstone to expanded talks between the president and prime minister and their chief advisers this afternoon. They will pick up talks Wednesday and potentially play a round of golf. The summit will apex with a joint press conference.
‘I am in Florida and looking forward to my meeting with Prime Minister Abe of Japan. Working on Trade and Military Security,’ the president tweeted this morning.
This week’s summit is the U.S. president’s second time hosting Abe at the private club the Trump family continues to own and operate for profit. The ultra-wealthy president has bestowed only one other world leader, China’s Xi Jinping, with a Mar-a-Lago invite.
‘Many of the world’s great leaders request to come to Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach. They like it; I like it. We’re comfortable,’ Trump commented on Tuesday as he sat down for his first meeting with Abe. ‘Many, many people want to be here. Many of the leaders want to be here. They request specifically.’
Trump signaled to Abe with the comment that he continues to hold the Japanese prime minister battling his own set of political scandals in high esteem.
‘It’s honor to have you in Florida with us. It’s an honor to have you at Mar-a-Lago and an honor to have you in the United States. It’s really something special,’ Trump told him.
Abe and Trump have much to discuss since their last face-to-face meeting in November in Tokyo.
Last month, Trump agreed to a detente with North Korea in exchange for a pledge from that the communist regime that it would freeze its nuclear program.
He also announced sweeping new tariffs on steel and aluminum. The Trump administration ultimately gave some countries an exemption, but Japan, which does not have a trade deal with the U.S., was not one of them.
US President Donald Trump greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he arrives for talks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach today
Conversation today with Abe centered on global security and trade will pick back up Thursday and apex with a joint press conference.
Summit is taking place in Florida at Trump’s private, for-profit club, Mar-a-Lago
Japan would have benefited from a 12-nation pact that Trump’s predecessor was pursuing with the help of Republicans in Congress. Trump bucked his party and the deal, however, and yanked the U.S. out last year on the assurance that he could engineer a better one.
Eleven other nations inked an agreement without the U.S. in March. In a decision that suggested the U.S. was looking to join the pact as a counterweight to China, Trump last week directed his trade representative and his chief economic advisor to reopen the negotiations.
Senior Trump administration officials said Tuesday that the purpose of the Abe visit, form the U.S. standpoint at least, is to get on the same page about North Korea.
Larry Kudlow, the president’s National Economic Council chairman, admitted there are also ‘certain disagreements with respect to some of the trading issues’ that needed to be worked out, as well.
‘We’ll iron those out, hopefully,’ he told reporters. ‘The United States would probably like to see a free trade agreement come out at some point with Japan.’
Kudlow downplayed talk that the U.S. could join the Trans-Pacific Partnership after all, saying, ‘It’s more of a thought than a policy, that’s for sure.’
‘We don’t need TPP; we don’t need anything. There’s trade disputes going on here that stand on their own regarding us and China,” he said. ‘We don’t need TPP to do any of that stuff. It might work. It might hypothetically work, but that’s not where we are.’
Abe and Trump have much to discuss since their last face-to-face meeting in November in Tokyo
Trump made Tokyo the first stop on November trip to Asia. He and Abe bonded over burgers, a golf game and hats that the Japanese prime minister had made for the occasion said ‘Donald & Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater’
In the past Trump and Abe have used golf to bridge the divide, however, an hours-long game wasn’t expected to take place this time
Trump told reporters on Tuesday evening that he and Abe had not discussed tariffs yet but they would.
‘We’re getting a lot of things done. A lot of great things between our two countries,’ he said.
At a briefing Friday, a senior administration official insisted the relationship between Abe and Trump is as good as it has ever been.
The leaders have been ‘in constant contact’ since the president accepted Kim’s invitation to meet, the person insisted.
‘The President has a great deal of respect for Prime Minister Abe’s views on Northeast Asian security. He will certainly want to know what additional thoughts Prime Minister Abe has beyond those that he’s already shared,’ the official added.
The official said the Japanese PM had never asked Trump not to meet with Kim.
‘I don’t want to go into their private conversations,’ the senior U.S. official said, ‘but Prime Minister Abe has very, very good ideas and advice that he’ll be sharing.’
Abe commended Trump on Tuesday for having the ‘courage’ to meet with Kim.
Still, he said he wanted to ‘underscore the importance of achieving the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, as well as the abandonment of missile programs of North Korea’ in their talks today.
Trump said in a March 10 tweet that he’d spoken to Abe and the Japanese was ‘very enthusiastic about talks with North Korea.’
‘Also discussing opening up Japan to much better trade with the U.S. Currently have a massive $100 Billion Trade Deficit. Not fair or sustainable. It will all work out!’ he optimistically said.
After his first round of talks with Abe on Tuesday, Trump agreed that a good deal of progress on the military, trade and North Korea had already come about.
Matt Pottinger, the director of National Security Council’s Asian Affairs division, meanwhile said he did not expect that Abe would leave Mar-a-Lago ‘with anything other than a high degree of confidence in the health of the alliance, including as we go into a summit with the North Koreans.’
‘It’s a working visit, and the focus is, really, on the discussion of those high-priority issues that I mentioned,’ the senior official previewing the summit said. ‘Golf is not on the official schedule.’
Abe rushed to New York after Trump’s election, becoming the first world leader to meet with the president-in-waiting. On the occasion of Trump’s election, Abe gifted him with a gold golf driver in a nod to their shared love of the sport.
In a symbol of the close friendship they he and Abe have developed, Trump made Tokyo the first stop on November trip to Asia. He and Abe bonded over burgers, a golf game and hats that the Japanese prime minister had made for the occasion said ‘Donald & Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater.’
But since then, Trump has softened his approach toward Kim, the 33-year-old tyrant he used to needle as ‘Little Rocket Man.’ The U.S. is also yet to ink the trade deal with Japan that Abe has been pursing since Trump was elected.
Abe’s approval ratings at home have steadily eroded as he battles corruption allegations, and an announcement on trade would help him shore up support in Japan.
Trump appeared open to a deal heading into the summit as he instructed his senior aides to see what could be done about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
‘He now believes that the United States would consider negotiating with TPP countries, either individually or as a group, if it’s in the interest of American business and American workers,’ a senior official said Friday. ‘So I think it’s fair to say, and the President has said, that a deal would have to be very attractive from those standpoints for the U.S. to take another look at TPP.’
In a tweet on Thursday evening, President Trump said he was standing firm on the reasons he ditched the pact in the first place, though. ‘Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama,’ he said.
‘We already have BILATERAL deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!’
Kudlow, told Fox & Friends Tuesday morning that the administration would ‘go slow’ on TPP and ‘report back to him.’
Since he and Abe bonded over burgers, Trump has softened his approach toward Kim, the 33-year-old tyrant he used to needle as ‘Little Rocket Man.’ The U.S. is also yet to ink the trade deal with Japan that Abe has been pursing since Trump was elected
In the past Trump and Abe have used golf to bridge the divide.
An hours-long game wasn’t originally on the schedule this time, though Trump said Tuesday that he and Abe would try to ‘sneak’ a game in before the conclusion of the PM’s visit.
‘We’re going to sneak out tomorrow morning and play a round of golf, if possible, and if we have the time,’ Trump said.
Trump recalled his last golf game with Abe. In Tokyo they played alongside Japanese pro golfer Hideki Matsuyama.
‘He’s one of the top three or four golfers in the world,’ Trump said Tuesday. ‘And I always thought I was OK at golf, but then I realized, we’re not so good,’ he told Abe.
A U.S. official had scoffed at a reporter’s suggestion on Friday in a briefing on Abe’s trip that a round of golf would make its way onto the schedule in the leaders’ third summit.
‘It’s a working visit, and the focus is, really, on the discussion of those high-priority issues that I mentioned,’ the senior official said. ‘Golf is not on the official schedule.’
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