President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE on Thursday sought to reassure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after Kim's government threatened to pull out of the upcoming nuclear summit with the United States.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he is “willing to do a lot” to offer Kim “protections” if the North Korean leader agrees to surrender his nuclear weapons.
“He will get protections that are very strong,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with NATO’s secretary-general. “The best thing he could do is make a deal.”
Trump’s comments show he is eager to address North Korea’s concerns so the summit can take place.
Nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang is the president’s top foreign policy priority, so it would be major blow to Trump if the talks with Kim fell through.
The president said preparations for the meeting are moving ahead "as if nothing happened," adding the U.S. has not heard official word from the North Koreans about any intention to pull out.
"Our people are literally dealing with them right now in terms of making arrangements, so that's a lot different than what you read, but oftentimes what you read, if it's not fake news, is true," he said.
North Korea threw the June 12 summit into doubt on Wednesday when it said it may not show up if the U.S. continues to demand “unilateral” nuclear disarmament.
Kim has been reluctant to denuclearize because he believes his arsenal is critical to his ability to maintain power. North Korean officials blasted national security adviser John Bolton this week for saying the U.S. is seeking a “Libya model” with North Korea.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was forced from power in 2011 with the help of NATO forces just eight years after striking a deal with the U.S. to give up his nuclear weapons. He was captured and killed that same year.
Trump said the agreement he is seeking with North Korea is not like the one the Bush administration made with Gadhafi in 2003, comments that are at odds with Bolton. Under the Libyan deal, Gadhafi surrendered his nuclear and chemical weapons stockpiles in exchange for sanctions relief.
"The Libyan model isn't a model that we have at all when we are thinking of North Korea," Trump said. "In Libya we decimated that country. That country was decimated. There was no deal to keep Gadhafi. The Libyan model that was mentioned was a much different deal.”
Trump indicated nuclear-related sanctions would remain in full effect if the talks with North Korea fall through, but said that a deal would allow Kim to continue "running his country" and allow it to become "very rich."
The Libyan disarmament agreement did not specifically address Gadhafi's status as ruler.
Updated at 3:27 p.m.