Trump promises Kim Jong Un he'd stay in power after nuclear deal

Washington Post

President Donald Trump on Thursday reassured North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un that he would remain in power under a nuclear deal with the United States, emphasizing that his administration is not seeking regime change amid threats from Pyongyang to cancel the upcoming leaders' summit.

In impromptu remarks at the White House, Trump sharply contradicted national security adviser John Bolton, who had said the administration would ask North Korea to emulate the "Libya model" from 2003 in which the Muammar Gaddafi regime relinquished its nascent nuclear weapons program. A top Kim aide blasted Bolton this week, blaming the Libya deal for Gaddafi's eventual downfall.

"The Libya model isn't the model that we have at all when we're thinking of North Korea," Trump said. "In Libya, we decimated that country. That country was decimated."

By contrast, Trump added, a deal with North Korea "would be with Kim Jong Un, something where he'd be there, he'd be in his country, he'd be running his country, his country would be very rich, his country would be very industrious."

Past administrations, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, also have had a policy that does not call for regime change in North Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has met with Kim twice in Pyongyang over the past two months, has reportedly told Kim directly that the United States is not seeking his removal from power.

But Trump's remarks represented a remarkable public guarantee that appeared aimed at trying to ensure the North Koreans would not back out of the summit, which is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.

Trump said his administration is continuing to negotiate with Pyongyang over the specific site to be used for the meeting in Singapore. "Nothing has changed on North Korea that we know of," he said. "We have not been told anything."

White House aides denied that Kim is in the driver's seat. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized that it was Kim who extended an invitation to Trump for a meeting, which the president accepted in March.

Trump noted that Kim has met twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that the Chinese could be influencing North Korea's position. Pyongyang this week abruptly called off planned talks with South Korean officials, objecting to routine joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

Bolton said in recent weeks that the Libya model would require North Korea to fully abandon its nuclear program before the United States would offer reciprocal benefits, such as easing economic sanctions.

But Trump suggested Bolton was referring to what would happen if Pyongyang did not make a deal.

"The best thing he could do is to make a deal," Trump said of Kim.

The Libya model, where the country was "decimated," is "what will take place if we don't make a deal," the president said. "If we make a deal, I believe Kim Jong Un would be very, very happy."

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