Trump cools expectations of quick breakthrough

He also signals he will stop increasing pressure on North Korean regime while talks proceed

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump will fly to Singapore this month after all for a landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but he now anticipates a more drawn-out negotiation than once envisioned and indicated that he will stop increasing pressure on the regime while talks proceed.

Eight days after abruptly cancelling the June 12 meeting citing North Korea's "open hostility", Mr Trump just as abruptly announced on Friday that it was back on, the latest head-spinning twist in a diplomatic drama that has captivated and confused much of the world.

After complaining of North Korean bad faith, he said, in effect, never mind.

"We're over that, totally over that, and now we're going to deal and we're going to really start a process," Mr Trump said after meeting a high-ranking North Korean envoy who delivered a letter from Mr Kim.

"We're meeting with the chairman on June 12, and I think it's probably going to be a very successful - ultimately, a successful process."

He said economic sanctions would remain in place in the meantime, but that he would not impose more as talks continue, and he even backed off the phrase "maximum pressure" that he has used to describe his strategy.

YES, IT'S ON

We're over that, totally over that, and now we're going to deal and we're going to really start a process. We're meeting with the chairman on June 12, and I think it's probably going to be a very successful - ultimately, a successful process.

US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, on going ahead after all with his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

"I don't even want to use the term maximum pressure anymore because... we're getting along," Mr Trump said. "You see the relationship. We're getting along. So it's not a question of maximum pressure. It's staying essentially the way it is."

The reversal followed a 90-minute meeting on Friday with Pyongyang's envoy, General Kim Yong Chol, the former intelligence chief and top nuclear arms negotiator who became the first North Korean official to set foot in the White House since 2000, and only the second to meet a sitting US president.

Mr Trump was joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Left out of the meeting were Vice-President Mike Pence and national security adviser John Bolton, whose suggestions that North Korea should follow Libya's example irritated Mr Kim Jong Un's government.

Libya voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, but its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was killed in 2011 during an uprising aided by the United States.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Mr Trump sought to play down expectations of a quick breakthrough in Singapore.

He said it was possible the meeting could lead to a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War of 1950-53, but neither the US nor North Korea indicated Mr Kim had agreed to close the gap between the two sides on his nuclear arsenal.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we walked out and everything was settled all of a sudden from sitting down for a couple of hours?" Mr Trump said. "No, I don't see that happening. But I see over a period of time. And frankly, I said, 'Take your time'."

That stood in sharp contrast to previous demands that North Korea disarm quickly.

Veteran foreign policy specialists said Mr Trump seemed to be scaling back his ambitions, a recognition perhaps that his initial expectations of an instant Nobel Peace Prize-winning breakthrough were unrealistic, especially given North Korea's erratic behaviour.

Administration officials feared that the meeting would be declared a failure if it did not lead to the sort of sweeping agreement that typically would take professional diplomats months, if not years, to broker.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 03, 2018, with the headline 'Trump cools expectations of quick breakthrough'. Print Edition | Subscribe