Efforts Are Moving Forward For A U.S. Summit With North Korea

May 29, 2018
Originally published on May 29, 2018 8:58 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Apparently, the North Koreans are showing up this time. That is the latest development in the effort to arrange a summit between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un. A few days ago, U.S. officials said North Koreans stood them up for preliminary meetings. Now, after President Trump called off the summit while also offering to revive it, U.S. officials have been to North Korea. And today President Trump says a North Korean official is bound for New York City. For more, we're joined by NPR's Scott Detrow, who's in our studio.

Scott, good morning.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's going on here?

DETROW: Well, this is the latest indication that the summit might be inching back toward more on than off. President Trump confirmed this this morning, saying this high-ranking North Korean official is on his way to New York. And that's just the latest in a sign of several steps that have happened since Trump released that dramatic letter late last week canceling the summit that indicate both sides are still talking and seem to be making progress.

INSKEEP: OK. So we should be clear - on one level, this is an entirely substance-free announcement. We don't know that they've agreed on anything. We don't know what they're discussing.

DETROW: Yes.

INSKEEP: But this also matters - right? - because it's - a summit is important depending on what they actually are showing up to do. And they're trying to establish what it is that they're really agreeing that they're going to show up to do.

DETROW: That's right. And that's the key point here because so much focus from President Trump and elsewhere has been on just the summit itself - we are going to have a summit. This summit will be a big deal. This summit is going to happen. And it's been less on what the actual conversation will be about. Remember, there was the sticking point that led to the initial cancellation, the United States insisting that North Korea denuclearize. North Korea didn't want to do that. The summit was off.

But let's walk through the last few days. Thursday. The summit is off. Then, beginning Friday, President Trump makes comments saying that he's hoping to keep talking. And remember that initial letter ended with a, you know, feel-free-to-reach-out-type line.

INSKEEP: Yeah, if you ever change your mind, I believe, was actually the line.

DETROW: Yeah.

INSKEEP: But go on. Go on.

DETROW: But then the key things that happened over the weekend was that there was a surprise summit between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which was another indication talks are serious. And President Trump said over the weekend that we're doing very well in terms of the summit with North Korea. He said, I think there's a lot of goodwill. I think people want to see if we can get the meeting and get something done.

INSKEEP: OK. So now the next step is being taken. But we still don't know - do we? - whether the North Koreans have truly signed on to something that the United States would consider acceptable and would be willing to lift sanctions on North Korea, for example.

DETROW: I think - these are the three key data points we have right now. There is a team of American officials meeting in North Korea to discuss this. We have this North Korean high-level official coming to New York to discuss this. And we know that North and South Korean leaders met again this weekend and really want to have some sort of dialogue happen. I think all those things add up to maybe it's possibly more likely on again. But we do know President Trump loves to, one, change his mind and, two, loves some sort of tension and last-minute reveal. And here we have both.

INSKEEP: Ryan Crocker, former U.S. diplomat, was on the program elsewhere in the program today and says at one point, these are two unpredictable regimes.

DETROW: Indeed.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks very much.

DETROW: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Scott Detrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.