President TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE said Friday that his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place as scheduled on June 12, ending a week of uncertainty about the historic summit.
Trump made the announcement after an 80-minute meeting in the Oval Office with top North Korea official Kim Yong Chol, who hand-delivered a personal letter from Kim Jong Un — a symbolic gesture aimed at easing tensions that led Trump last week to scrap the summit.
“We’re going to be June 12 — we’ll be in Singapore. It’ll be a beginning,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn, adding, “I think we’re going to have a very positive result in the end.”
The president also tried to downplay expectations for the summit, saying it will likely take more than one sit-down to broker a nuclear agreement with North Korea.
“I’ve never said it happens in one meeting. You're talking about years of hostility, years of problems,” he said.
Trump’s decision to put the summit back on happened almost as abruptly as its cancellation, which came in a May 24 letter to Kim Jong Un that cited North Korea’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” toward the U.S.
The president acknowledged he decided to go ahead with the summit even before reading Kim Jong Un’s letter.
"I may be in for a big surprise, folks,” he quipped.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley later said Trump read the letter before departing for Camp David, where he plans to spend the weekend with his adult children.
The summit, highly prized by Trump, appeared to be dead last week after the president scrapped it amid escalating rhetoric from North Korea suggesting it would never agree to the “unilateral” surrender of its nuclear arsenal.
North Korean officials also insulted Vice President Pence and took offense to apparent references by national security adviser John Bolton to the end of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi's rule. Gaddafi was overthrown years after his own agreement with the U.S. to give up his nuclear program.
But that impasse was short-lived. Trump announced just one day after the cancellation that he remained open to meeting with Kim. His statements came after Pyongyang stressed its interest in carrying the meeting forward.
That set off a week of fast-paced diplomacy between three groups of officials in the U.S., Singapore and the Korean demilitarized zone designed to set the terms for the Trump-Kim summit. It included two days of meetings in New York between Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoTo advance democracy, defend Taiwan and Ukraine Haley has 'positive' meeting with Trump No time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump MORE and Kim Yong Chol.
The visit by Kim Yong Chol was significant because he is the highest-ranking North Korean representative to visit the White House in 18 years and has been deeply involved in nuclear talks for years.
The former spy chief was greeted on the South Lawn by White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who walked him into the Diplomatic Reception Room and along the Colonnade into the Oval Office — a path usually taken by foreign leaders visiting the president.
The president said the meeting went “very well” and lasted much longer than he expected.
"This was literally going to be the delivery of a letter and it ended up being a two-hour conversation with the second most powerful man in North Korea,” he said.
There are lingering questions, however, about North Korea’s willingness to give up its nuclear weapons. Kim has long seen his growing nuclear arsenal as crucial to his survival as leader, even as he has made friendly gestures to the U.S.
Asked if he believes Kim would like to fully denuclearize, Trump said he believes he does.
“Yeah, I do think so,” he told reporters. “He’d like to see it happen.”
Trump said he also discussed economic sanctions the U.S. and other world powers have imposed on North Korea in connection to its nuclear program, and vowed not to impose new ones while the two nations engage in talks.
“We had hundreds of new sanctions ready to go on,” Trump said. “I said I’m not going to put them on until such time that the talks break down. … Why would I do that when we’re talking so nicely?”
Kim Jong Un is eager for sanctions to be lifted in order to revitalize his nation’s economy, but many regional experts doubt he would permanently and irreversibly eliminate his nuclear weapons in return.
The president said they also discussed a peace treaty to bring a formal end to the Korean War, which started in 1950 and has been a constant source of regional tensions. But Trump admitted he did not raise the country’s abysmal human rights record.
The last time a North Korean representative visited the White House was 2000, when Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok had an Oval Office meeting with former President Clinton. The meeting was arranged to explore the possibility of a summit with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, which never occurred.
Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, called the decision to hold the summit a “Hail Mary” this time around, given the wildly fluctuating nature of the Trump-Kim relationship.
“I think what Trump is banking on is that he can form a personal relationship and convince Kim in a one-on-one setting that the United States is no threat,” Kazianis said.
Rebecca Kheel contributed.
Updated at 3:37 p.m.