President Donald Trump is signaling an openness to a “phase-in” to potential denuclearization of North Korea rather than demanding the country immediately cease its nuclear weapons program.
Speaking in an interview with Fox News that aired Thursday, Trump said he’d “like to have it done immediately, but physically, a phase-in may be a little bit necessary. It would have to be a rapid phase-in but I’d like to see it done at one time.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, has said that denuclearization efforts can’t be extended through an incremental approach that rewards North Korea on every step its takes.
“The model that we have laid forth is a rapid denuclearization, total and complete, that won’t be extended over time,” Pompeo said Wednesday in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The President made similar comments in the Oval Office Tuesday, declining to rule out the possibility that North Korea’s denuclearization could be the result of an incremental process in which the rogue state is incentivized.
“You know, you do have some physical reasons that it may not be able to do exactly that. So for physical reasons, over a very short period of time. Essentially, that would be all in one,” Trump said then.
The President also said in the interview there was “a good chance” he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a summit in Singapore next month, a day after leaving open the possibility that the meeting might not happen.
“We’ll see what happens. I mean right now, we’re looking at it,” Trump told Fox.
“We’re talking about it. And they’re talking to us. We have certain conditions. We’ll see what happens but there’s a good chance and it would be a great thing for North Korea. If that happens, it’ll be a great think for North Korea. Most importantly, it would be a great thing for the world. So we’ll see what happens,” Trump continued in the interview, which was taped on Wednesday.
A day before his appearance on Fox News, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office there was a “very substantial chance” he would not meet with Kim next month. He also said he wouldn’t meet with Kim unless North Korea agrees to meet “certain conditions” ahead of the summit.
“We’re moving along and we’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “If it doesn’t happen, maybe it’ll happen later. Maybe it’ll happen at a different time. But we are talking.”
It was the clearest indication to date that the audacious summit Trump agreed to in March may be at risk. Last week, North Korea adopted a harsh new tone and threatened to withdraw from the meeting, which is due to occur in Singapore.
CNN’s Elise Labott, Laura Koran, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.