The officials told the Times that the president is becoming concerned that the meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “could turn into a political embarrassment” if negotiations to rid the North of its nuclear capabilities fall through and that he “has begun pressing his aides and allies” as to whether he should proceed. However, the Times reports that there is no indication that Trump is considering pulling out of the Singapore summit.
Aides told the Times they’re also concerned with the president’s lack of knowledge about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Monday dismissed reports suggesting that Trump is thinking of backing out of the North Korea talks.
“I don’t think the president gets cold feet about anything. So I think, as the president has said, right now it’s still on. If that changes, you’ll find out about it,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.
Trump’s newly reported hesitation came after North Korea released statements last week rejecting the US call for immediate nuclear disarmament. Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser John Bolton outlined some of their potential bargaining chips – building an energy grid, supplementing agriculture and developing infrastructure.
After the statements by North Korea, administration aides told CNN last week that US officials largely determined that Kim was posturing ahead of talks and that they didn’t believe the meeting is in real jeopardy. But they expected the warnings, which threaten to chill US-North Korea relations ahead of the talks, to continue in the weeks ahead.
Asked about North Korea’s threats to cancel the summit, Trump said on Wednesday that he hadn’t received any information that would put the talks in jeopardy.
On Sunday, Trump held a call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. South Korean officials said in a statement that the two leaders spoke about the North’s recent statements.
Officials speculated to the Times that the pre-arrival call “was a sign of Mr. Trump’s discomfort.”
Moon and Trump are set to meet today in Washington before Kim meets with Trump on June 12 in Singapore.
A historic inter-Korean summit in late April had raised hopes of reconciliation.
But following US-South Korean air combat drills known as Max Thunder, North Korea’s chief negotiator Ri Son-gwon said on Thursday it would not hold talks with South Korea unless their demands were met.
It came a day after it threatened to pull out of the summit with the United States.