Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Donald Trump

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Trump Says He'll 'Leave' Summit With North Korea If He Thinks It Won't Be Successful

April 18, 2018 - 7:31 pm
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PALM BEACH, Fla. (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- President Trump on Wednesday expressed optimism about an upcoming summit with North Korea.

But he said if he doesn't think it will be successful, it won't happen, and if the summit isn't successful, he will "leave."

Trump made the comments — along with remarks on the Russia investigation, Russia itself and trade — in a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. 

Trump confirmed on Twitter early Wednesday that CIA Director Mike Pompeo ventured to North Korea and met with its leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month. Trump claimed that meeting went "very smoothly."

Trump has said the summit will likely take place at the beginning of June, if not sooner. He said the U.S. is "negotiating" to free the three American prisoners in North Korea, although he did not directly answer a reporter's question as to whether he will make freeing those prisoners a condition for talks between the U.S. and North Korea. 

"The fact is that they do have three prisoners," Trump said. "We have been talking about them. We are negotiating now. We are doing our very best. As you know, they've been there a very long time and it's harsh treatment."

Abe and Trump have been meeting at the president's club Mar-a-Lago over the last two days, discussing how to address North Korea's nuclear program, trade between the U.S. and Japan, and the Indo-Pacific region more generally. Trump said he hopes the U.S.-North Korea summit will be successful.

There is still no date for a summit between the U.S. and North Korea, although Trump said five locations are under consideration. Trump, asked Tuesday if any of them are in the U.S., responded, "no."

"I will be meeting with Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," the president said Wednesday. 

Trump said he hopes they live to see the day of a prosperous, peaceful Korean peninsula, and hopes their summit will succeed to result in complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. 

"It would be a tremendous thing for North Korea, and it would be a tremendous thing for the world," Trump said.

Meanwhile, Abe said there should be “no reward” given to North Korea just because the reclusive country is responding to dialogue over its development of nuclear weapons.

Through an interpreter, Abe noted that North Korea has made promises before, and not kept them. Just because North Korea is willing to talk doesn't mean maximum pressure should be lessened, the Japanese leader noted.

Trump also addressed the special counsel's Russia probe, asked if he has decided whether political fallout would be too great to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, didn't directly answer the question. He called the Russia probe a "hoax" and said his legal team has been very transparent.

"They've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they're still here," Trump said of Mueller and Rosenstein, calling the Russia investigation a "hoax" made up by Democrats, and claiming his legal team has been incredibly transparent in handing over more than a million documents. 

The president also slammed Japan — standing feet from the Japanese prime minister — claiming the U.S. has a "massive" trade deficit with that nation. 

Trump and Abe had said they have failed to reach a deal that would exempt Japan from new U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, as Abe had wanted.

"If we can come to an arrangement on a new deal, that would certainly be something we would discuss," Trump said. But he said the current trade deficit between the two countries is too high for him to offer an exemption now.

Trump also made clear that he has little interest in rejoining negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal unless the terms are dramatically altered.

"While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don't like the deal for the United States," Trump tweeted Tuesday, following a dinner with Abe and their respective wives at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. "Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn't work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers."

Trump pulled the U.S. out of TPP days after his inauguration but recently said he might be open to rejoining.

Trump began the news conference by praising the life of the late Barbara Bush, and Abe began his remarks the same way.

Meanwhile, Pompeo is undergoing the confirmation process to become secretary of state, and while his confirmation seems likely, it's still uncertain. No Democrats have said they'll support him, and if Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) persists in opposing him, Pompeo will likely need a Democrat to vote in favor of confirming him.

One Democrat, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott Wednesday that he will vote no on Pompeo’s confirmation. He said he did not think Pompeo articulated a strategy for foreign policy in any country during confirmation hearings last week.

"I had hoped that he would outline a strategy that he would pursue as the secretary of state as to how we deal with Russia. I had hoped that he would outline a strategy as to how we deal with Iran. I had hoped that he would have outlined a strategy as to the catastrophe that is Syria, just to mention a few,” Menendez said, “and he failed to do so in each and every one of those elements.”

A handful of Democrats and Republicans say they're undecided. When Trump was asked about Pompeo's confirmation prospects, he expressed confidence that Paul would change his mind about Pompeo. 

"I will say this about Rand Paul -- he's never let me down," the president told reporters during a working lunch with Abe Wednesday. "Rand Paul is a very special guy as far as I'm concerned, he's never let me down and I don't think he'll let us down again."