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Trump And North Korea's Leader Draw Closer To Face-To-Face Meeting


President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appear to be drawing closer to a face-to-face meeting. There are still some key logistics to work out, like where and when this meeting would actually take place. The president's national security adviser, John Bolton, suggested on "Fox News Sunday" that this meeting will not happen unless North Korea agrees to give up its nuclear program completely.


JOHN BOLTON: If, in fact, Kim has made a strategic decision to give up his entire nuclear weapons program, then I think deciding on the place and the date should be fairly easy.

GREENE: All right, let's bring in NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson this morning.

Hi, Mara.


GREENE: All right, so last week ended with this historic meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea. And over the weekend, President Trump seemed to be giving himself credit for this - these recent diplomatic moves on this front. Has he brought us to this moment?

LIASSON: I think he has contributed. You know, when he claimed credit for this, he was speaking at a rally where the crowd was chanting, Nobel, Nobel, like he should be getting a Nobel Peace Prize. But he has been ambitious and audacious. He has threatened to destroy North Korea. He has imposed tough sanctions, and that's certainly helped get Kim to the negotiating table. But we don't know if that was a bigger motivator for North Korea than the fact that they completed a nuclear weapon that can hit the United States, which brings them a lot closer to their goal of being accepted as a nuclear power and puts them in a more powerful position to get out from under the pressure of sanctions.

GREENE: I guess we should also say that North Korea has always wanted to have its leaders sit down with a U.S. president.

LIASSON: Yes, always asked for it, and now they're being rewarded. Yeah.

GREENE: Well, the president says he's going to insist that North Korea give up the nuclear weapons program before any sanctions are lifted. I mean, we hear Bolton saying that that has to happen if this meeting's going to take place. Is any of this likely?

LIASSON: People who've had experience with North Korea say it's unlikely because we've been in this exact same position before where North Korea says it's going to give up its program but, in the end, doesn't. And the other thing that could happen is that president Trump could lose some of his leverage because he can't really credibly threaten to destroy North Korea if it's making peace with South Korea, especially if they're going to sign an agreement that ends the Korean War. Plus, those tough sanctions depend on Chinese participation, and the Chinese might lose their enthusiasm for sanctions if North Korea is behaving better. So Kim Jong Un might have his own "Art Of The Deal" playbook here that includes loosening sanctions but keeping his nuclear weapons.

GREENE: Mara, can I also ask you about the Iran nuclear deal? President Trump has been very critical of it, threatening to pull out. If he were to do that, would that somehow make it harder to execute some kind of deal with North Korea?

LIASSON: That is an argument many people are making, that if he does pull out, it would affect the way the rest of the world looks at U.S. credibility, including North Korea. But I don't know if Kim Jong Un, who believes nuclear weapons are an insurance policy to guarantee that he dies in his bed as an old man - I don't know if he cares about the Iran deal. But that is something that the president is going to have to do very soon, by May 12, and I think it will send a message to the world.

GREENE: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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