April 24, 2018 / 3:46 PM / a month ago

Trump hails North Korea's 'honourable' Kim but tempers summit expectations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had been “very honourable” and discussions on a planned summit were going well, but tempered expectations for any quick denuclearisation deal by saying “it may be we’re all wasting a lot of time.”

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) in Pyongyang, North Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump (R), in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., respectively from Reuters files. REUTERS/KCNA handout via Reuters & Kevin Lamarque (R)

Trump told reporters during a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House that North Korea had said it wanted to hold the summit “as soon as possible.”

“We think that’s a great thing for the world,” he said. “We’re having ... very good discussions. Kim Jong Un, he really has been very open and I think very honourable from everything we’re seeing.”

Trump has said he could meet with Kim in late May or June.

The United States is pressing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and says it will keep up a policy of “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang through sanctions to achieve this goal.

Trump said he hoped dealings with North Korea would be positive, but he wanted to see the country’s complete denuclearisation. Asked at a news conference, what he meant by this, he replied:

“It means they get rid of their nukes. Very simple ... it would be very easy for me to make a simple deal and claim victory. I don’t want to do that. I want them to get rid of their nukes.”

Trump said he would not repeat the mistakes of past administrations, which his aides have accused of relaxing sanctions too early in pursuit of deals with North Korea.

“The campaign of maximum pressure will continue,” Trump said.

“The end result is, we’ll see. Maybe good things will happen; it may be we’re all wasting a lot of time, but hopefully it will all be good for everybody concerned.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is due to meet Kim in a summit on Thursday, said last week that North Korea had expressed a commitment to “complete denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula, and Pyongyang said on Saturday it would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests.

This has eased concerns that North Korea could quickly complete development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.

However, many experts have expressed doubt that Kim will be willing to abandon a weapons programme he sees as essential to the survival of his ruling family dynasty.

Trump has faced some criticism for quickly agreeing to become the first serving U.S. president ever to meet a North Korea leader, but he said he had made no concessions.

“Despite some of the media saying that I have made concessions, I haven’t even discussed a concession, other than the fact that meeting is a great thing,” he said.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Brunnstrom; Writing by Tim Ahmann and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker

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