Trump tells North Korea that denuclearization will preserve its security
U.S. won't discuss troop levels in South Korea during meeting with Kim, president says
The Trump administration says there are no plans to change or reduce the scope of current U.S.-South Korean military exercises that triggered an angry reaction from North Korea and cast doubt on President Donald Trump's upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un.
The North abruptly cancelled a planned meeting with South Korean officials over the drills and threatened to pull out of the summit, set for June 12 in Singapore, over the U.S. insistence on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
But Trump said Thursday that nothing has changed with respect to North Korea after the warning from Pyongyang. He said North Korean officials are discussing logistical details about the meeting with the U.S. "as if nothing happened."
The North has argued that it needs its nuclear weapons to preserve its security, and has expressed concerns about giving up its nuclear program. The North cites the example of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who died at the hands of rebel forces amid a popular uprising in October 2011; he had given up his nuclear program in the 2000s.
National Security Adviser John Bolton explicitly cited "the Libya model of 2003-2004" as a basis for the North Korea talks last month, which drew a personal rebuke from the North Korean government.
Trying to address the North Korean concerns, the president said that if Kim were to agree to denuclearize, "he'll get protections that would be very strong."
Trump warned that failure to make a deal could have grave consequences for Kim. Mentioning what happened in Libya, Trump said: "That model would take place if we don't make a deal."
"The Libyan model isn't the model we have at all. In Libya we decimated that country," Trump said. "There was no deal to keep Gadhafi."
Trump said he is "willing to do a lot" to provide security guarantees to Kim. "The best thing he could do is make a deal."
Trump also suggested China was influencing North Korea's thinking regarding the summit, pointing to Kim's visit to China immediately before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang last week to finalize the summit date and location.
Speaking at an Oval Office meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump also said he will not discuss U.S. troop levels in South Korea during his meeting with Kim.
Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the schedule of military exercises hasn't changed. She added the annual exercises are long-planned, defensive in nature and meant to ensure the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces.
Exercise Max Thunder began Monday and concludes May 25. It includes aircraft from across the U.S. military services. Last year's exercise included roughly 1,200 U.S. personnel and about 640 South Koreans. This year's drill is similar.
The North has said it won't return to talks with Seoul due to the exercises.