President Donald Trump said the U.S. and North Korea have already had direct talks at “extremely high levels” in advance of a planned meeting between the two nations’ leaders this summer.
The U.S. has “started talking to North Korea directly,” Trump told reporters Tuesday after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea.”
Trump also said he’s given South Korea his “blessing” to negotiate a peace deal with North Korea, and that five locations are under consideration for his meeting with the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
“They do have my blessing to discuss the end to the war,” Trump said. South Korea never formally ended its war with North Korea, though the armed conflict ended with a cease-fire in 1953.
Trump suggested he was responsible not only for the negotiations on a formal peace treaty ending the war but also the success of this year’s winter Olympics in South Korea.
“They’ve been very generous that without us and without me in particular, I guess, they wouldn’t be discussing anything and the Olympics would have been a failure,” Trump said. “As you know North Korea participated in the Olympics and it was really quite an Olympics. It was quite a success. That would not have happened.”
Abe praised Trump’s leadership, saying his “unwavering conviction as well as his determination” has made talks with North Korea possible.
Trump said he will meet with Kim in “early June or before that assuming things go well.” If they don’t the summit with the North Korean leader might not happen, he added.
“It’s possible things won’t go well and we won’t have the meetings and we’ll just continue to go on this very strong path we have taken,” Trump said.
The U.S., Japan and South Korea have forged an alliance to get Kim to abandon his nuclear weapons program. Abe is expected to press Trump during their summit for a sense of what he hopes to accomplish with the meeting, and to underscore what protections Japan is seeking.
“Japan and ourselves are locked and we are very unified on the subject of North Korea,” Trump said.