In a substantial change from his long-standing talking points/demands, President Trump is no longer insisting on immediate, unconditional denuclearization by North Korea. Speaking as he welcomed South Korea’s President Moon, Trump said an immediate, full denuclearization would “certainly be better.”
But Trump admitted the sheer size of North Korea’s program would make it difficult to dismantle it all in one single step, adding that he doesn’t want to “totally commit myself” to that demand. That’s a long-standing position for his administration.
This change is a big positive step toward the June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un, the fate of which has been in question in recent days. A more flexible US policy makes the talks more worthwhile for North Korea, and suggests they are not being pressured to immediately give up everything.
Which is particularly important because of recent comments from the administration about the “Libya model,” which saw Libya giving up their nascent WMD programs, only for NATO to attack a few years later to facilitate a regime change.
North Korea still seems willing to talk, and South Korean officials said they believe there is a 99.9% change of the June 12 summit still happening. Unlike the very positive diplomacy of recent months, however, both sides seem to be going into this more cautiously.
Trump is less confident that the talks are going to happen as planned, telling reporters he sees a “very substantial chance that it doesn’t work out,” and that the US has certain, unnamed “conditions” for the June 12 meeting.