WASHINGTON (AP) — “Everybody plays games,” President Donald Trump declared Friday as he suggested the potentially historic North Korean summit he had suddenly called off might be getting back on track.
His sights set on a meeting that has raised hopes for a halt in North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, Trump welcomed the North’s conciliatory response to his Thursday letter withdrawing from the Singapore summit with Kim Jong Un. Rekindling hopes as quickly as he had doused them, Trump said it was even possible the meeting could take place on the originally planned June 12 date.
“They very much want to do it; we’d like to do it,” he said.
Later Friday, Trump tweeted that the two countries were “having very productive talks.” He wrote that the summit, “if it does happen, will likely remain in Singapore on the same date.”
The sweetening tone was just the latest change in a roller-coaster game of brinkmanship — talks about talks with two unpredictable world leaders trading threats and blandishments. On Thursday, White House officials had noted that Trump had left the door open with a letter to Kim that blamed “tremendous anger and open hostility” by Pyongyang but also urged Kim to call him.
By Friday, North Korea issued a statement saying it was still “willing to give the U.S. time and opportunities” to reconsider talks “at any time, at any format.” Trump rapidly tweeted that the statement was “very good news” and told reporters that “we’re talking to them now.”
Asked Friday if the North Koreans were playing games with their communications, Trump responded: “Everybody plays games. You know that better than anybody.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke Friday with a top official from South Korea, whose leaders had appeared to be taken aback when Trump withdrew from the summit. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha reaffirmed their “shared commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” and pledged to coordinate “in all of their efforts to create conditions for dialogue with North Korea.”
South Korea’s government said in a statement released Saturday that it was relieved about the revived talks for a summit.
Trump’s comments Friday came after days of mixed messages on the summit.
Trump, in his letter to Kim on Thursday, objected specifically to a statement from a top North Korean Foreign Ministry official. That statement referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” for his comments on the North and said it was up to the Americans whether they would “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”
Trump then said from the White House that a “maximum pressure campaign” of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation would continue against North Korea — with which the U.S. is technically still at war — though he added that it was possible the summit could still take place at some point.
A senior White House official said the North had reneged on its promises ahead of the summit, including a pledge to allow international inspectors to monitor its explosive destruction of its nuclear test site. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid overshadowing Trump’s comments Thursday.