U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he was willing to walk away from his upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, if it appeared that a successful conclusion could not be reached.
"If we don't think it's going to be successful, we won't have it," the U.S. president said at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after the two leaders had met at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "If the meeting when I am there isn't fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting."
Trump surprised the world in March by agreeing to meet with Kim, in what would be the first meeting between sitting leaders of the two countries. The encounter is expected to happen in June at the latest. Five potential venues are being considered for the summit, with none of them in the U.S., according to the president.
"I will be meeting with Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," he said.
Washington has been working behind the scenes with Pyongyang to ensure the talks go ahead. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had been in the North Korean capital for a meeting with Kim that had gone "very smoothly."
Abe welcomed Trump's stance toward the regime. Citing North Korea's history of broken promises on denuclearization, Abe said "there should be no reward for just engaging in dialogue."
"Maximum pressure needs to be maintained and actual implementation of concrete actions toward denuclearization will be demanded."
Trump echoed the Japanese prime minister by saying that there was "a bright path available to North Korea, when it achieves denuclearization in a complete, verifiable and irreversible way."
With the U.S. and North Korea laying the groundwork for the summit, there had been anxiety in Tokyo that Japan would be left out of the negotiation process. This week's meeting at Mar-a-Lago, however, will go some way to alleviating those fears, with Abe having persuaded Trump to raise the issue of Japanese citizens that have been abducted by the North Korean regime when he meets Kim.
With "strong Trump endorsement of the alliance and a promise to represent Japan's interests in the meeting with Kim Jong Un, Prime Minister Abe can go home with a win," said Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a U.S. think tank.
"We've never been in a position like this with that regime, whether it's father, grandfather, or son," said Trump before asserting that Washington's negotiating position was stronger than ever.
Masayuki Yuda in Tokyo