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President Trump Says Progress Is Being Made For Summit With North Korea

May 28, 2018
Originally published on May 28, 2018 7:58 pm
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UNITED STATES ARMY FIELD BAND: (Singing) Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. He is...

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

That's Arlington National Cemetery today. There and in military burial grounds around the country, Americans have been paying tribute to those who died in the service of their country. President Trump took part in the traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington and then gave thanks to the families who've lost loved ones.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will never forget our heroes.

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KELLY: Even as the president honors those who paid the ultimate price in wartime, the president is also focused on a peacemaking effort with North Korea. He is still eager to meet next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and to talk about dismantling that country's nuclear weapons program. Here is what the president said on that subject over the weekend.

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TRUMP: If we got that done and if we can be successful in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it would be a great thing for North Korea. It would be a great thing for South Korea. It'd be great for Japan and great for the world, great for the United States, great for China. A lot of people are working on it.

KELLY: Well, NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley joins us now. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Good to have you with us.

Let me take you all the way back to last Thursday, which is...

HORSLEY: (Laughter).

KELLY: ...When the president abruptly canceled this summit with Kim. Now we've been tracking as he and his aides are hustling to revive it. What's the latest? Is it on or not?

HORSLEY: Well, to be determined. But remember, even as he scrubbed the meeting last week, the president did leave the door open. He told Kim - hey, call or write if you want to put this back together again. And both Kim and South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, have seized on that opening. They're both very eager to revive the Trump-Kim summit. They held a hurry-up summit of their own over the weekend. And Trump has been tweeting positive messages about what he calls their very productive talks, suggesting the summit could happen as initially conceived in Singapore June 12.

KELLY: And when we just heard the president saying there that a lot of people are working on this, do we know exactly what efforts are underway?

HORSLEY: There are two different U.S. teams on the ground in Asia - one focused on the logistics of the meeting, the other on the substance of the talks. Trump told a group of reporters late Saturday that the effort to revive the summit is, quote, "moving along nicely."

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TRUMP: Looks like it's going along very well. As you know, there are meetings going on as we speak in a certain location, which I won't name.

HORSLEY: We now know that location was North Korea. A U.S. team crossed into the DMZ over the weekend for talks with their North Korean counterparts on the substance of a possible Trump-Kim summit. They want to know how far is Kim willing to go in surrendering his nuclear weapons and what kind of assurances, both military and economic, he would be looking for from the U.S. in exchange for that. This is the kind of negotiation that usually takes, you know, weeks or months.

KELLY: Sure.

HORSLEY: So if they really want to get this done by June 12, we're looking at a very accelerated schedule.

KELLY: All right. So that's the substance team. You said there's also a second team working on logistics. Where are they - what are they working on?

HORSLEY: Yes. That's a group led by Joe Hagin, the deputy White House chief of staff. And they're meeting with a North Korean delegation in Singapore. It's the second time the U.S. team has traveled to Singapore in recent weeks. The first time, they were stood up by the North Koreans. That was part of what a White House official described as a trail of broken promises by the North that contributed to Trump's decision to pull out of the summit last week. We haven't gotten any official word about whether the North Koreans kept their promise this time and showed up for the date in Singapore. But the encouraging tone of what the president's saying suggests that lines of communication are open.

KELLY: All right. Before I let you go, Scott, the president has been marking Memorial Day with tweets on some other subjects as well, generating some controversy.

HORSLEY: Right. He continues to criticize the Justice Department and the Obama administration for the way they went about investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. And he also issued a series of tweets around Memorial Day, including one in which the president said those who died defending the nation would be, quote, "very happy and proud" of how well the country is doing today. And he went on to boast about the strength of the Trump economy.

KELLY: All right, that is NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Thank you very much, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.