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On-again North Korea summit ‘will be a process,’ Trump says

A sitting U.S. president and senior North Korean envoy in the Oval Office? That's a scene that hasn't happened in almost 20 years. President Trump relaunched the summit he canceled only a week ago, signalling a shift in the administration's willingness to make denuclearization a staged process. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The on-again/off-again U.S. summit with North Korea is back on again. The announcement came today after talks at the White House.

    Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    This handshake has not happened in almost 20 years, a sitting U.S. president and senior North Korean envoy at the White House. And after their 90-minute meeting, it was all back-pats, smiles and photo-ops.

    President Trump walked Kim Yong-chol all the way to his car and then relaunched the summit he canceled only a week ago.

  • President Donald Trump:

    You will be in Singapore on June 12. And I think it will be a process. It's not — I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it's going to be a process.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That word process is a shift. In the past, the administration insisted Kim Jong-un and the North Koreans immediately give up their nuclear program. The North Koreans demand step-by-step denuclearization with step-by-step American incentives.

    But President Trump used process about 10 times today, indicating he's OK with staged denuclearization.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're not going to go in and sign something on June 12. And we never were. We're going to start a process. And I told him today, take your time. We can go fast. We can go slowly.

  • Frank Jannuzi:

    By embracing a process, I think the president has basically decided that he cannot resolve a conflict of 70 years in the making overnight. And he also is embracing a pragmatic approach to trust-building on the peace side and dismantling North Korea's nuclear establishment step by step. So it's a big shift.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Frank Jannuzi supported the 2004 talks with North Korea and was a State Department and congressional Korean policy analyst. He's now president of the Mansfield Foundation.

  • Frank Jannuzi:

    I know that denuclearization of North Korea will take years, at best. So the president is staking his future now, this process on a step-by-step process. It's a very good thing, because it actually gives him the opportunity for success at the end of the road.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Until now, the administration has claimed its maximum sanctions pressure brought the discussions to this point. Today, President Trump said he didn't like that term anymore.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I don't want to even use the term maximum pressure anymore, because I want to use that term.

  • Frank Jannuzi:

    Well, the president, by taking that term off the table, is signaling good will to North Korea, which he hopes will be reciprocated by the sustained missile test, nuclear test freeze by the North.

    But he is essentially saying, while we're talking, unless this breaks down, we're not going to enact any new measures against each other.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Seventy years ago, the Korean War devastated the peninsula. The U.S., North Korea and China signed an armistice.

    Today, President Trump said the summit might finally produce a peace treaty.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Can you believe that we're talking about the ending of the Korean War? You're talking about 70 years. That's something that could come out of the meeting.

  • Frank Jannuzi:

    It's historic. Kim Jong-un wants to sit down with President Trump, shake hands and declare an end to the hostilities that have been on the peninsula for 70 years. If Kim Jong-un can pull that off, then he will do something that his father and his grandfather had failed to do. And he himself will go down in the North Korean history books as a great leader.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    This was the highest level meeting between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean officials since 2000, when Bill Clinton met Marshal Cho Myong Rok in the White House.

    Today, President Trump said he'd gone farther than any of his predecessors.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I think the relationship we have right now with North Korea is as good as it's been in a long time.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And as left for a weekend of summit preparations, President Trump said he had faith that the process restarted would yield a deal — quote — "for the good of millions of people."

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Nick Schifrin.

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