Trump is a tough dealer, says South Korea prime minister

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak Yon (centre) arrives in Dublin, Ireland, on May 27, 2018. Mr Lee believes the US-North Korea summit will take place as planned on June 12 in Singapore.
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak Yon (centre) arrives in Dublin, Ireland, on May 27, 2018. Mr Lee believes the US-North Korea summit will take place as planned on June 12 in Singapore.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON - US President Donald Trump is "a tough dealer" who has extensive deal-making experiences, said South Korea Prime Minister Lee Nak Yon.

"President Trump has a sixth sense. He must have gone through a number of things from deal-making experiences. The closest thing to describe him would be a tough dealer," Mr Lee said on Sunday (May 27) during a meeting in London with reporters travelling with him on a European trip, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Mr Lee also said that he believes the US-North Korea summit will take place as planned on June 12 in Singapore as both Mr Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un " share political risks" from the meeting falling apart.

It has been a roller-coaster ride since the announcement that Mr Trump and Mr Kim would meet.

The twists and turns so far included North Korea suddenly stepping up criticism of the United States, threatening weeks of diplomatic progress by saying it may reconsider the June 12 summit.

North Korea's first Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan on May 16 threatened to scrap the summit if Pyongyang was pushed towards "unilateral nuclear abandonment", Reuters reported.

Then on May 24, Mr Trump abruptly cancelled the planned summit, announcing it in a personal letter to Mr Kim.

 
 
 
 

Mr Trump blamed open hostility from the North Korean regime for his decision to call off the planned talks, and warned Pyongyang against committing any "foolish or reckless acts", Agence France-Presse reported.

The US president's tactic apparently worked, said Yonhap, as Pyongyang immediately asked for the summit to go ahead as scheduled.

On Sunday, a team of US officials crossed into North Korea for talks to prepare for the summit, as both sides pressed ahead with arrangements despite the question marks hanging over the meeting.

Mr Sung Kim, a former US ambassador to South Korea and former nuclear negotiator with the North, has been called in from his posting as envoy to the Philippines to lead the preparations, according to a person familiar with the arrangements.

He crossed the line that separates the two Koreas to meet Ms Choe Son Hui, the North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister who said last week that Pyongyang was reconsidering the talks.

Asked if South Korean President Moon Jae In would also travel to Singapore for the US-North Korea summit, Mr Lee said that discussions between Mr Trump and Mr Kim are not expected to go as far as to talk about formally ending the Korean War. That means Mr Moon is unlikely to travel to Singapore, Yonhap reported.