President Trump Meets With Japanese Prime Minister Ahead Of Summit With North Korea

Jun 7, 2018
Originally published on June 7, 2018 6:07 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are trying to present a united front just days before the big U.S.-North Korea summit. For his part, President Trump expressed optimism about that meeting. But today he also tried to keep expectations in check.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are going to have a great success. I don't think it will be in one meeting. I think it'll take longer than that.

KELLY: Now, NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe was at the press conference today at the White House and joins me now. Hey, there.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.

KELLY: So give me some details. What was the headline today?

RASCOE: Well, overall, it seemed the president was trying to sell the prospect of a deal but also to kind of hedge his bets a little and not place so much pressure on this one meeting in Singapore. So on the one hand, he was really pitching this idea that reaching an agreement would be great not only for the U.S. but for North Korea. North Korea would get help with their economy from South Korea and from Japan, and the U.S. would even normalize relations with North Korea. Trump did say he thinks the meeting could be a terrific success. And he even said if things go well, he could invite Kim to the White House.

KELLY: Wow. That would be something.

RASCOE: That would (laughter). But he also emphasized that this would be a starting point and that even signing an agreement would not be the end of this process. And it wouldn't solve all the issues between North Korea and the U.S. Here's more of what he had to say on that.

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TRUMP: We could sign an agreement. As you know, that would be a first step. It's what happens after the agreement that really is the big point.

RASCOE: And, you know, he did say he'd be willing to walk away from the meeting if it wasn't going well. But he didn't say specifically what would make him do that.

KELLY: All right. What about Shinzo Abe? We mentioned he was there at the White House meeting with Trump today. They've - a few times, they seemed to have forged a good relationship. Did we get any clues as to whether they are on the same page when it comes to North Korea?

RASCOE: They were trying to definitely send that message that the U.S. and Japan are together and that they are united when it comes to North Korea. One issue that Abe did bring up repeatedly was this issue of Japanese citizens who Japan says were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s. Japan wants these citizens returned. And this is a very serious issue. Abe said he talked a lot about this with Trump. And President Trump did say he would bring up this issue of the abductees with North Korea.

Another concern that Abe really emphasized was that North Korea must give up its ballistic missiles, including the medium-range missiles that could reach Japan. There have been some worries on the Japanese side that maybe Trump would just focus on making North Korea give up those missiles that could reach the U.S. and not those that threaten Japan. We're not sure actually where the two leaders came out on that. Trump and Abe did not give many details about their strategy session and what specifically Trump would be demanding out of North Korea.

KELLY: Did we get any more details about how President Trump is preparing for his meeting with Kim Jong Un?

RASCOE: Well, President Trump was asked about this. And he said he feels he's very well-prepared. But he also said he didn't think much preparation was needed because it's all...

KELLY: Hang on. Hang on. He didn't think much preparation was needed?

RASCOE: No, because he thinks it's all about the attitude that you bring to the meeting and whether each side is willing to make something happen. Now, Secretary of State Pompeo, he held a briefing with reporters after President Trump spoke. And he did kind of clarify that the president - Trump has been getting briefings on North Korea regularly and that, you know, there have been daily briefings on North Korea. So he thinks that President Trump is ready to meet with Kim.

KELLY: All right, well, I guess we will find out next week. Thanks very much, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you.

KELLY: That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.