President Donald Trump said Tuesday that members of his administration are already talking to officials in North Korea "at extremely high levels" about his possible summit with Kim Jong Un.
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"We have also started talking to North Korea directly, at extremely high levels," Trump said during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar—a—Lago resort in Florida.
Trump made the surprise announcement as he kicked off his two days of talks with Abe. Both leaders said the potential Trump-Kim summit is expected to dominate their agenda, along with discussions on trade.
Just after Abe's arrival, Trump reacted to news that South Korea and North Korea were nearing a potential agreement to announce the end of their decades-long military conflict ahead of a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-In and Kim Jong-Un.
Trump said the two countries "have my blessing" to discuss ending the war, and said Asian leaders have given him significant credit for the recent series of positive developments pointing towards potential lasting peace in the Korean peninsula.
"They’ve been very generous that without us and without me in particular, I guess, they wouldn’t be discussing anything and the Olympics would have been a failure," Trump said.
Pres. Trump on talks between Koreas: "Without us, and without me in particular, I guess, you would have to say that they wouldn't be discussing anything, including—the Olympics would have been a failure." https://t.co/NkJuIoh4fP pic.twitter.com/FyIyjjbpcU— ABC News (@ABC) April 17, 2018
Trump said that he and Abe are "very unified" on the issue of North Korea, and said there are five separate locations under consideration as he plans to meet with Kim Jong Un in early June or before that. But the president also added a potential caveat.
"Assuming things go well, it's possible things won't go well and we won't have the meeting," Trump said. "We will see what happens."
Speaking to reporters in advance of Abe's arrival, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow and senior director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council Matthew Pottinger emphasized that Trump and Abe have a close friendship and that Trump has met with Abe more than any other foreign leader since taking office 14 months ago.
Trump said that he and Abe hope to play a round of golf together, if possible -- saying the pair would "sneak out" to hit the links tomorrow at one of Trump's nearby golf courses if they have the time.
Kudlow was also asked about his new role announced last week after a meeting the president held with lawmakers at the White House to consider the U.S. potentially negotiating to re-join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade accord the president routinely derided as a "terrible deal" while he was a candidate for the presidency.
"There’s nothing at all concrete," Kudlow said. "On the American side at the moment, it’s more of a thought than a policy."
Kudlow insisted the Japanese are open to discussions about potentially reentering, but said such a deal would only happen if the U.S. is able to achieve a more favorable deal.