WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Thursday that he will discuss potential "new encounters" with Kim Jong Un, but he did not offer odds on the prospects of a third summit with the North Korean leader.
"A third summit could happen, and it's step-by-step – it's not a fast process," Trump told reporters before a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who seeks to jump-start negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.
Trump did forecast "tremendous things" with North Korea, but only over time.
While Moon has suggested easing some economic sanctions on North Korea in the short term, Trump said he wants them to remain in place for the time being. Trump added that "I have the option of significantly increasing them," but said he doesn't to do that that now "because of my relationship with Kim Jong Un."
Trump, who extended his "warmest wishes" to Kim as well as the people of North and South Korea, said he and Moon would discuss possible humanitarian and food aid to Kim, as well as the possibility of additional meetings. Trump did not provide details.
There are "various smaller deals" that could happen with North Korea in the short term, Trump said, "but at this moment we’re talking about the big deal – the big deal is we have to get rid the nuclear weapons."
The South Korean leader visited the White House to urge the president to keep talking with North Korea even after the collapse of the second Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam in February.
After cutting short a Feb. 28 meeting in Hanoi, Trump and aides said North Korea wanted sweeping sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling one of its main nuclear facilities, without relinquishing its current weapons stockpile. The U.S. wants complete denuclearization before agreeing to sanctions removal.
“Obviously the U.S. wants immediate dismantlement” of all of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, Chung-in Moon, a special adviser to President Moon for foreign affairs and national security, told a group of U.S. journalists last week. “North Korea might want to have a much more elongated timetable. South Korea might want some kind of compromise middle point.”
With Moon at his side in the Oval Office, Trump said details will take time: "If it goes fast, then it’s not the proper deal.”
Trump and Moon met hours after Kim Jong Un said his nation might seek to retaliate against other countries that are imposing economic sanctions. While not mentioning the United States by name, Kim told a party conference he would "deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK to its knees,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Cheol-Hee Park, an international relations professor at Seoul National University, said before the White House visit that Moon's goal was to "keep the momentum" of a U.S.-North Korea dialogue.
“He doesn’t want Trump to lose interest or contemplate military action," Park said.