A week after abruptly scrapping his prized summit with Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump buoyantly announced on Friday the historic talks were back on for June 12 in Singapore.
His reversal came after receiving a letter from Kim, hand delivered to the White House by the dictator’s top envoy. Trump initially told reporters the missive was “very interesting.” But he later acknowledged he hadn’t read it yet.
The contents of the note from Pyongyang appeared to matter little to Trump, who sounded an optimistic – and conciliatory – note about the prospects for a deal. He said harsh statements from the North lampooning Vice President Mike Pence and threatening nuclear war were a thing of the past.
“I think we’re over that, totally over that, and now we’re going to deal and we’re going to really start a process,” Trump said on the South Lawn after meeting with the North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, for more than an hour in the Oval Office.
“We’re meeting with the chairman on June 12 and I think it’s probably going to be a very successful – ultimately a successful process,” Trump said.
The announcement capped an electric day of diplomacy at the White House, which included the highest-level meeting between a US president and a North Korean official since 2000.
Trump’s announcement that the summit is back on amounted to a plot twist in a reality-show back-and-forth over whether the summit would actually occur. With just over a week until the scheduled sitdown, few expect the cliffhanger aspect of the encounter will wane.
“We’ll see. Remember what I say. We will see what we will see, but I think it’s going to be a process that we deserve to have,” Trump said.
Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief and currently North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator, arrived just after 1 p.m. ET on the South Lawn, where foreign dignitaries are typically received by the President. This time, Trump did not greet his visitor in person, leaving that task to his chief of staff John Kelly and a top CIA official.
There was little ceremony and no handshake. They walked along the Rose Garden to the Oval Office, where Kim met with Trump for more than an hour.
During their talks, Trump did not raise human rights, he said later, despite Kim’s alleged involvement in the deaths of South Korean troops.
When they emerged, Trump shook Kim’s hand before seeing him off in a black US government SUV. He strolled to a group of nearby reporters to declare the meeting a success.
“The relationships are building and that’s a very positive thing,” he said. Asked about Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization, Trump said: “I think they want to do that. I know they want to do that.”
“They want to develop as a country,” Trump said.