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Trump on Summit: From 'Off' to 'Maybe' 05/26 10:17

   President Donald Trump says "everybody plays games" as he's suggesting the 
summit with North Korea that he suddenly called off might get back on track, 
rekindling hopes of progress toward halting the North's nuclear weapons 
development

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump says "everybody plays games" as 
he's suggesting the summit with North Korea that he suddenly called off might 
get back on track, rekindling hopes of progress toward halting the North's 
nuclear weapons development

   Trump welcomed the North's conciliatory response to his Thursday letter 
withdrawing from the June 12 meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong Un. Trump said 
Friday it was even possible the meeting could take place on the originally 
planned date.

   "They very much want to do it; we'd like to do it," he said.

   Trump later tweeted that the two countries were "having very productive 
talks." He wrote that the summit, "if it does happen, will likely remain in 
Singapore on the same date."

   The White House said Saturday that a team is heading to Singapore this 
weekend as previously planned to work on logistics for the summit should it 
take place.

   Meantime, Kim and South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, met on Saturday at a 
border truce village. They discussed carrying out the peace commitments they 
reached in their first summit, as well as Kim's potential meeting with Trump, 
Moon's office said. Moon was expected on Sunday to reveal the outcome of his 
surprise meeting with Kim.

   White House officials noted that Trump had left the door open with a letter 
to Kim that blamed "tremendous anger and open hostility" by Pyongyang but also 
urged Kim to call him.

   By Friday, North Korea issued a statement saying it was still "willing to 
give the U.S. time and opportunities" to reconsider talks "at any time, at any 
format." Trump rapidly tweeted that the statement was "very good news" and told 
reporters that "we're talking to them now."

   Trump views the meeting as a legacy-defining opportunity and has relished 
the press attention and the speculation about a possible Nobel Peace Prize. He 
made a quick decision to accept the meeting in March, over the concerns of many 
top aides, and has remained committed, even amid rising concerns about the 
challenges he faces in scoring a positive agreement.

   Asked Friday if the North Koreans were playing games with their 
communications, Trump responded: "Everybody plays games. You know that better 
than anybody."

   He did not detail the nature of the new U.S. communication with the North. 
At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said "diplomats are still at work 
on the summit, possibility of a summit, so that is very good news." He 
characterized the recent back-and-forth as the "usual give and take."

   The U.S. and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations, 
complicating the task of communicating between the two governments. Under the 
Trump administration, the CIA, where now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo served 
as director, has taken an unusually prominent role in back-channel negotiations.

   Pompeo last year assembled a working group at the CIA called the Korea 
Mission Center, which gradually assumed the lead role in talks with the North 
Koreans, and the group's director, a retired senior CIA official with deep 
experience in the region, became the main U.S. interlocutor with Pyongyang.

   The group did not supplant the State Department's traditional mode of 
communication with the North, which is known as the "New York Channel" and 
involves U.S. diplomats and their North Korean counterparts posted to the 
United Nations. But it did play the major role in organizing Pompeo's two trips 
to Pyongyang, once as CIA director and once as secretary of state.

   Trump, in his letter to Kim, objected specifically to a statement from a top 
North Korean Foreign Ministry official. That statement referred to Vice 
President Mike Pence as a "political dummy" for his comments on the North and 
said it was up to the Americans whether they would "meet us at a meeting room 
or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown."

   Trump then said from the White House that a "maximum pressure campaign" of 
economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation would continue against North Korea 
--- with which the U.S. is technically still at war --- though he added that it 
was possible the summit could still take place at some point.

   U.S. defense and intelligence officials have repeatedly assessed the North 
to be on the threshold of having the capability to strike anywhere in the 
continental U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile --- a capacity that Trump and 
other U.S. officials have said they would not tolerate.

   Trump, speaking Friday to graduates at the U.S. Naval Academy, did not 
mention North Korea directly, but he stressed the United States' military might.

   He said, "The best way to prevent war is to be fully prepared for war."


(KA)

 
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