Kim will get protection in exchange for summit deal: Trump

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chairing the first Enlarged Meeting of the 7th Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang yesterday, in a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. President Donald Trump said a sum
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chairing the first Enlarged Meeting of the 7th Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang yesterday, in a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. President Donald Trump said a summit deal would allow Mr Kim to stay in power. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

But he also warns that N. Korea may be decimated like Libya if no deal is reached

US President Donald Trump has said he is "willing to do a lot" and offer North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "protection" if he were to make an agreement at their upcoming summit in Singapore on June 12.

"He will get protections that are very strong," Mr Trump told reporters on Thursday at an Oval Office meeting with visiting Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. He added: "The best thing he could do is make a deal."

Mr Trump said he is not considering a so-called Libya model for dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

The United States "decimated" Libya, Mr Trump said, but that was not what he has in mind for North Korea.

"That model will take place if we don't make a deal, most likely," he warned. "But if we do, I think Kim Jong Un will be very happy. We are willing to do a lot.

"We never said to (former Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi, 'Oh, we are going to give you protection, we are going to give you military strength, we are going to give you all of these things'."

Mr Trump said instead that a deal with the US would allow Mr Kim to stay in power, and that the country would be rich.

"This would be... something where he would be there, he would be in his country, he would be running his country, his country would be very rich," Mr Trump said.

"His people are tremendously industrious. If you look at South Korea, this would be really a South Korean model in terms of their industry. In terms of what they do, they are hardworking, incredible people."

The US is willing to provide security guarantees, Mr Trump added, but he declined to address the possibility of scaling back US troops in South Korea to appease the North.

Pyongyang has long viewed the 28,500-strong troop presence as a threat to the regime.

North Korea threw the summit into doubt on Wednesday, saying it would reconsider meeting if the US insisted on nuclear disarmament.

Reports say the White House was taken by surprise. Analysts are saying it was a wake-up call for Mr Trump, who in recent weeks has been praising Mr Kim.

The US President suggested that the North Korean leader may have been influenced by China's President Xi Jinping.

"A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, Kim went to China to say hello a second time to President Xi," Mr Trump said, apparently referring to Mr Kim's May 7 to 8 meeting with Mr Xi in Dalian.

"It could very well be that he (Mr Xi) could be influencing Kim, but we will see," Mr Trump said.

South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo, citing a government source, reported yesterday that Mr Xi told the North Korean leader during their second summit that Beijing has his back even if the Trump-Kim summit fails.

"The two leaders particularly pledged China's active support in North Korea's politics, economy and diplomacy, regardless of the outcome of the North-US summit," the source told JoongAng Ilbo.

When asked about the Singapore summit, Mr Trump said there had been no official word from North Korea to indicate that it was off.

Preparations were moving ahead, he said.

"As of this moment, North Korea is actually talking to us about timings and everything else as if nothing happened," Mr Trump added.

"If the meeting happens, it happens. And if it doesn't, we go on to the next step."

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EDITORIAL

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 19, 2018, with the headline 'Kim will get protection in exchange for summit deal: Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe