By Michael Hernandez
President Donald Trump said Thursday he would "certainly" invite North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the U.S. if next week's summit in Singapore goes well, but added he is "totally prepared to walk away" should progress not be achieved.
Addressing reporters at the White House alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump said he thinks the invite "would be well-received" by Kim, but insisted that the North must denuclearize if it wishes to receive any sort of relief from international sanctions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later said Kim, whom he has met with twice amid a flurry of diplomatic activity in preparation for the summit, has indicated to him that he is "prepared to denuclearize."
Trump further said he would like to normalize relations with Washington's decades-long enemy if the parties are able to broker a historic accord to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
“Normalizing relations is something that I would expect to do, hope to do, once everything is complete. We would certainly hope to do that,” Trump said in the Rose Garden.
Abe stressed the importance for Tokyo of releasing Japanese citizens held hostage in the North, saying in remarks translated from Japanese that the American president "fully understands" the importance of their release.
Over a dozen Japanese citizens are held in the North.
Trump is scheduled to meet with Kim on Tuesday at Singapore's luxury Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island. If it goes ahead, it will be the first such meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
Trump previously called off the meeting amid heated comments from senior North Korean and U.S. officials, but said it was back on last Friday after meeting for roughly two hours with Kim's second-in-command at the White House.
In addition to denuclearization, Trump said the U.S. and North Korea will discuss a formal end to the decades-old Korean War, and said such an agreement could be penned during next week's sit-down.
“That’s probably the easy part. The hard part remains after that,” he said.
Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, cast one of the biggest wrenches into the planned summit on Wednesday when he said Kim "got back on his hands and knees and begged" for the U.S. to revive the summit after Trump temporarily cancelled it.
But Pompeo emphasized Giuliani, who is not part of the Trump administration, "doesn’t speak for the administration when it comes to this negotiation, and this set of issues".
"We're moving forward, we're focused on the important things," Pompeo told reporters at the White House, stressing that the fact Kim and Trump "are coming to the table shows that the two sides are very serious".
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