President Donald Trump Thursday offered "protections" to Kim Jong Un if the North Korean dictator agrees to strike a deal with the U.S. whereby Kim would give up his nuclear weapons but also warned about potentially severe consequences if such a deal cannot be reached.
“He will get protections that are very strong,” President Trump said from the Oval Office in an apparent attempt to lure the North Korean leader to the negotiating table after reports that Pyongyang is threatening to withdraw from a planned summit in June.
The president offered direct assurances that the U.S. would not seek to overthrow Kim if a deal is hatched and further promised that a potential deal would include major economic sweeteners for Kim and his country.
“This would be with Kim Jong Un something where he'd be there. He'd be in his country. He'd be running his country,” Trump said. “His country would be very rich. His people are tremendously industrious.”
Addressing the so-called Libya model, Trump contradicted his National Security Adviser, John Bolton, who invoked it over the weekend and has since been cited by North Korea as a reason why it might withdraw from the planned Trump-Kim summit scheduled for June 12, Trump said it “isn't a model that we have at all.”
“The Libyan model was a much different model,” Trump said. “We decimated that country. We never said to Gadhafi: 'Oh, we're going to give you protection, we're going to give you military strength, we're going to give you all of these things; we went in and decimated him.”
But the president followed up by warning that the Libya model may come into play if no deal can be reached.
“Now that model would take place if we don't make a deal, most likely,” he said, again referring to the Libya model. “But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong Un is going to be very, very happy. I really believe he's going to very happy.”
Taking a nonchalant tone to whether his planned summit with Kim in fact occurs, the president said the U.S. is currently moving forward as if the meeting is happening but said his attitude is “whatever happens, happens. Either way, we’ll be in great shape.”
While the president said that he wants to make a deal, and believes Kim Jong Un does as well, he suggested that China may be playing a role in North Korea showing signs of getting cold feet ahead of the summit.
“With deals, that's what I do, is deals,” the president said, “and with deals, you have to have two parties that want to do it. He absolutely wanted to do it. Perhaps he doesn't want to do it. Perhaps he spoke with China. That could be right.”
“The best thing he could ever do is to make a deal,” Trump continued. “I have a feeling, however, that for various reasons, maybe including trade, because they've never had this problem before -- China has never had this problem with us -- it could very well be that he's influencing Kim Jong Un,” referring to China's President Xi.
“We'll see what happens,” he said in conclusion.