President Trump on Tuesday denied he made any concessions in his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un even as he announced joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises will stop during negotiations.
Trump also said Pyongyang agreed to destroy a “major” missile testing site after he and Kim signed a joint statement to make a broad commitment for the United States to provide the reclusive country “security guarantees” in exchange for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
In a one-hour-plus press conference after the first ever summit between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, Trump appeared at times to get frustrated at reporters’ repeated questions on how he can trust Kim in light of his country’s violations of past agreements and the regime’s brutality.
“Can you ensure anything?” Trump said. “Can I ensure that you’re going to be able to sit down properly when you sit down? You can’t ensure anything. All I can say is they want to make a deal. That’s what I do. My whole life has been deals. I’ve done great at it. That’s what I do. And I know when somebody wants to deal, and I know when somebody doesn’t.”
The press conference started with a video, played in Korean and English, that resembled a movie trailer and asked, “What if history can be changed? Will the world embrace this change?” Trump said he showed Kim and “his people” the video during the summit.
Trump and Kim capped off their summit at the Capella resort on Singapore’s Sentosa Island by signing a statement committing the United States to unspecified “security guarantees” for Pyongyang in exchange for a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
“President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to [North Korea], and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” the statement said.
The document does not elaborate on what steps the United States will take to guarantee North Korea’s security, nor does it lay out the steps North Korea will need to take to denuclearize.
The statement refers to denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula, North Korea’s favored language. And while the United States in the past has demanded so-called CVID — or complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization — the statement does not include the words “verifiable” and “irreversible.”
Asked whether the exclusion of those two words was a concession, Trump said “not at all.”
“I don’t think you can be any more plain than what we’re asking,” he continued. “We talk about unwavering commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Methods to verify denuclearization were discussed, Trump said.
“It’s going to be achieved by having a lot of people there,” he said of verification.
Trump said a reduction in U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula was not on the table in discussions with Kim, but that “at some point” he wants “to get our soldiers out.”
But while U.S. troops will stay on the peninsula for now, Trump said joint U.S.-South Korean war games, which the Pentagon has said are essential to alliance-building and military readiness, will stop “unless and until” negotiations go poorly.
Pressed on what the United States gets in exchange for halting the military exercises, Trump said “we haven’t given up anything.” Rather, he cast the decision as a cost-saving measure, but added the exercises are “very provocative.”
“The amount of money that we spend on that is incredible, and South Korea contributes, but not a hundred percent,” Trump said. “Number one, we save money. A lot. And number two, it really is something I think [North Korea] very much appreciated.”
As a North Korea concession, Trump cited what he said was Pyongyang’s agreement to destroy a major missile engine testing site, though Trump did not give a location for the site or otherwise elaborate.
Trump said he would travel to Pyongyang “at the appropriate time,” adding Kim accepted his invitation to visit the White House at some point.
Trump also said he knows “for a fact” that Kim is going to “start a process” when returns home that will “make a lot of people very happy and very safe.”
Trump said Kim acknowledged the past failed agreements, including the 1994 Agreed Framework made with the Clinton administration.
“I don’t think they’ve ever had the confidence, frankly, in a president that they have right now for getting things done and having the ability to get things done,” Trump said. “I think he might want to do this as much or even more than me because they see a very bright future for North Korea.”
Trump said human rights were discussed during the summit, but that the issue will be “discussed more in the future.”
Pressed on his statement that Kim, a dictator who has been blamed for the death of American student detained and sent home in a coma, is “very talented,” Trump said “well, he is very talented.”
“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough– I don’t say he was nice, or I don’t say anything about it,” Trump said, adding the student, Otto Warmbier “is a very special person” who “did not die in vain.”