Just days after President Trump canceled the Singapore summit with North Korea in a signed letter, the White House is already back to talking as if the summit is still on.
During a White House press availability Saturday evening, Trump said that “a lot of people are working on” the summit and “it’s moving along very nicely.” Leaving no room for ambiguity that he was speaking more broadly about diplomatic relations with North Korea, he specifically said, “We are looking at June 12 in Singapore.”
"It's moving along pretty well." President Trump looks favorably towards potential meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during meeting with Joshua Holt. https://t.co/XHEjaiioMY pic.twitter.com/hj3zIOWVfA
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 27, 2018
North Korea had responded to the U.S. president’s letter this week with a statement praising Trump for having agreed to a summit in the first place.
“We would like to make known to the U.S. side once again that we have the intent to sit with the U.S. side to solve [the] problem regardless of ways at any time,” said vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan. It was still unclear prior to Trump’s remarks whether June 12 was still a realistic date for the summit — or even whether it was back on the table at all.
Earlier Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro that Trump was very clear in the letter about “the things he would want to see” from North Korea, such as denuclearization. She didn’t address the fact that he had earlier in the week been quite clear that the summit was off. And she did try to give herself some wiggle room about when and if it might happen.
“[We’re] so hopeful that — whether it’s June 12 or July 12 — we so hope that that can take place at some point soon,” Sanders said.
U.S. officials entered North Korea Sunday to begin preparations for the summit to take place, as was previously planned.
Donald Trump, Jr. boasted Friday that North Korea’s conciliatory response following his father’s letter of cancellation is proof that The Art of the Deal — Trump’s 1987 book — is an effective approach at such negotiations. As Trump has said, “If you can’t say you’re going to walk, you can’t make a good deal.”
But James Dobbins of the RAND Corporation argued in an op-ed that this approach will be insufficient for Trump to truly be successful. “For enduring results, President Trump will need to move beyond the art of the deal to also master the art of the relationship,” he wrote.