Trump re­as­sures Kim he’d re­main in power

Tampa Bay Times - - Nation & World -

WASHINGTON — 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 a regime change amid threats from Py­ongyang to can­cel a his­toric sum­mit next month.

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 Moam­mar 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 in an in­ter­na­tion­ally backed pop­u­lar up­ris­ing in 2011.

“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.”

By con­trast, Trump said, 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.”

Trump’s pre­de­ces­sors, in­clud­ing pres­i­dents Barack Obama and Ge­orge W. Bush, also main­tained North Korea poli­cies that did not call for a regime change. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, who has met with Kim twice in Py­ongyang over the past two months, has re­port­edly told him di­rectly that the United States is not seek­ing his re­moval from power.

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

“If we make a deal, I be­lieve Kim Jong Un would be very, very happy,” Trump said.

Trump and his aides have con­tin­ued to in­sist that the Kim regime must agree to give up its nu­clear pro­gram as part of any deal. But the ad­min­is­tra­tion has not spec­i­fied a timetable or what the United States is will­ing to offer in re­turn.

Some nu­clear se­cu­rity ex­perts said Trump un­der­mined his goal of re­as­sur­ing Kim by ap­pear­ing to con­fuse Bolton’s mean­ing about Libya and, in do­ing so, is­su­ing a veiled threat to Py­ongyang.

Getty Im­ages

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­tra­dicted na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton in re­marks about a nu­clear deal with North Korea.

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