WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump said there was a “substantial chance” his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not take place as planned on June 12 amid concerns that Kim is resistant to giving up his nuclear weapons.
Trump raised doubts about the Singapore summit in talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who came here to urge Trump not to let a rare opportunity with reclusive North Korea slip away.
If the summit is called off or fails, it would be a major blow to what Trump supporters hope will be the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency, and a huge disappointment for the president himself.
“There’s a very substantial chance … it won’t work out. And that’s OK,” Trump told reporters yesterday. “That doesn’t mean it won’t work out over a period of time. But it may not work out for June 12. But there is a good chance that we’ll have the meeting.”
“North Korea has a chance to be a great country and I think they should seize the opportunity,” he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later told reporters the Trump administration was still planning for a June 12 summit, but he declined to predict whether it would actually take place.
Trump’s Oval Office remarks were the strongest sign from him yet about the possibility of a delay or cancellation of what would be the first-ever summit between the leaders of the US and North Korea.
It was unclear whether Trump was backing away from the summit or whether he was strategically coaxing North Korea to the table after decades of tension on the Korean peninsula and antagonism with Washington over its nuclear weapons programme.
In a related development, North Korea accepted a list of South Korean reporters to visit their nuclear testing site after a days-long tug of war with Seoul, South Korea’s unification ministry said yesterday.
North Korea invited a handful of media from a number of countries to witness the dismantling of the Punggye-ri testing site to uphold its pledge to discontinue nuclear tests. However, it declined to take the list of reporters from South Korea after calling off planned inter-Korean talks in protest against US-South Korean air combat drills.
The invitation to witness the dismantling of the Punggye-ri site was seen as an indication that North Korea’s unexpected offer to end its nuclear tests still held despite renewed diplomatic uncertainty.
Reporters from news outlets from the other countries arrived in the North Korean port city of Wonsan on Tuesday, where they were waiting to be guided to the testing site for the event, set for between yesterday and tomorrow.
However, South Korean journalists returned home overnight after failing to obtain a visa from Pyongyang in Beijing.
The unification ministry said the South Korean reporters could fly direct to Wonsan if the North accepted them.
“We delivered a list of eight reporters from two outlets to the North, and the North accepted it,” the ministry said in a statement yesterday.
The ministry did not say when the reporters would leave for the North but said it would arrange support as quickly as possible.
Invited members of foreign media said North Korean authorities told them the weather was “bad for travel” to the site but they may in fact be awaiting the South Korean reporters, citing a forecast that shows improving weather.