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Trump and South Korea’s Moon sound positive notes on North Korea progress

At the annual United Nations General Assembly, President Trump met Monday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to talk about trade and the auto industry, as well as diplomatic outreach to North Korea. Nick Schifrin joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what they said, and what to expect from the rest of the week.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The world converges on New York this week at the annual United Nations General Assembly.

    President Trump will be there until Thursday meeting with other world leaders. He addresses the Assembly tomorrow.

    Today, he met with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in and others.

    And our foreign affairs correspondent, Nick Schifrin, is there.

    Hi, Nick.

    So tell us about the trade agreements that the two leaders talked about today.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, this is the one of the only times that President Trump has actually followed through on his promise to renegotiate a trade deal.

    And he's trying to help U.S. auto manufacturers. And the deal doubles the number of vehicles that those auto manufacturers can sell using U.S. safety standards to South Korea, creates new language on environmental standards that helps the auto manufacturers. It also lengthens the period of time that the U.S. truck industry can protect itself by tariffing South Korean trucks.

    Now, on the other side, South Korea gets new language on dispute settlement and Korean textile exports. And, separately, the South Koreans have agreed to reduce steel exports. And for that, they're getting exempt from steel tariffs.

    And I talked to many experts today, and they say, look, this does help us car manufacturers, but it is a far cry from what President Trump called redoing this agreement. These changes are modest, and they build on changes that were already done a couple years ago.

    But, Judy, it gives both president a win and allows President Moon to go back to Seoul and say, look, the U.S.-South Korea alliance is on track. And that gives him political maneuvering to keep working on rapprochement with North Korea.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Nick, you were telling us that the two leaders were also sounding positive about recent moves by the North Koreans?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Yes, they are unified in public and sounding positive together in public.

    So, let's listen first to President Trump, and then President Moon.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're making tremendous progress. Chairman Kim has been really very open and terrific, frankly. I think he wants to see something happen.

    So we have done, I think — mutually, we have done very well with respect to North Korea. And we will be discussing that for the next couple of days.

  • Moon Jae-in (through translator):

    Thanks to your bold decision and new approach, we're in the process of solving a problem that no one has been able to solve in the decades past. I would like to thank you for this, Mr. President.

    And Chairman Kim also repeatedly conveyed his unwavering trust and expectations for you, while expressing his hope to meet you soon to swiftly conclude the denuclearization process with you, because you are indeed the only person who can solve this problem.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Now, that is the public happiness on both sides.

    But, in private, a U.S. official tells me there is a lot of concern from the U.S. side that President Moon is going too far too quickly in trying to deal with Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

    And this is a real inflection point, Judy, because both South Korea and North Korea are asking the U.S. to declare official end to the Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not in a peace treaty.

    The president has said he wants to end the war and wants to bring our boys home, as he says, from Seoul. And there are some in the administration who don't want any daylight between the U.S. and South Korea.

    But the majority of administration officials I'm talking to are much more skeptical. They believe that North Korea has to take much more serious steps for denuclearization before any kind of end of the war can be declared.

    And there's a real debate about what North Korea has to do right now before the U.S. will give North Korea this concession of ending the war. For example, does it allow inspectors to come in and verify the closure of sites? Does it give over a couple nuclear weapons? Is there a list of nuclear inventory?

    And some don't want to give them anything in regards to the end of the war until there's full denuclearization. So, that debate continues. The skepticism, Judy, is very high. But the presidency sees this as a moment of opportunity.

    And that is why he's talking about a second summit with Kim Jong-un.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Clear there are still a number of things unsettled.

    So, Nick, this U.N. General Assembly goes on for the rest of the week. So many world leaders there. What else do you expect?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    A lot of focus on Iran from the U.S. side. The president will be speaking about Iran in the Security Council. The secretary of state and the national security adviser will speak to a group that has advocated for Iranian regime change. And they will also meet with the family members of political exiles being held in Iran.

    The Europeans are trying to resist that and keep Iran inside of the nuclear deal. There will be efforts to try and get aid to Palestinians. The U.S. has cut about half-a-billion dollars of humanitarian aid. And the Europeans and Arab countries are trying to fill that in.

    And the U.S. says that they are going to talk about the word sovereignty tomorrow in President Trump's — President Trump's speech. A lot of critics of that word hear unilateralism, but you will not only hear from Donald Trump, the populist. You will hear from multiple populists here in the United Nations General Assembly over the next couple days.

    And that led the secretary-general of the U.N. to say that there's a war on multilateralism going on.

    Ambassador Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., says, look, we are not against multilateral organizations, but we will not support them in a way that infringes on our sovereignty — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Words matter.

    Nick Schifrin there all week covering these important meetings — thank you, Nick.

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