President Donald Trump addressed reporters in Singapore on Tuesday afternoon local time, following his summit with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, telling them that he was hopeful for the prospects of peace, and that “they will be doing things” on human rights.
Trump noted that the summit was just the beginning of an “arduous process,” and noted that sanctions against the North Korean regime would remain in place, but held out great potential for peace and prosperity.
“The past does not have to define the future. Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war,” Trump said, adding, “There is no limit to what North Korea can achieve when it gives up its nuclear weapons and embraces commerce and engagement with the rest of the world.”
The first question from the press corps challenged the president about how he could praise Kim Jong-un when he was, after all, a brutal dictator.
Trump responded by mentioning Otto Warmbier, the American who was mortally injured in North Korean custody and died shortly after his return. “Otto is someone who did not die in vain,” Trump said, saying that he had inspired both sides to strive for peace.
Later, responding to a direct question from John Roberts of Fox News about human rights, Trump said that the issue had been discussed — though he admitted it had not been as prominent as denuclearization. “They will be doing things” to improve the country’s human rights situation, he said.
He also said later that he would not remove sanctions on North Korea without “significant improvement” on human rights.
The president also said that the issue of kidnapped Japanese citizens had been discussed but had not been included in the document signed by both sides due to time constraints.
Trump also said that the U.S. would cease “war games” — i.e. joint military exercises — with South Korea “unless and until” talks bogged down.
Asked by CBS News’ Major Garrett about why the document he signed with Kim Jong-un had not mentioned the words “irreversible” or “verifiable” with respect to denuclearization, Trump said that the language of the document was quite “plain.”
Trump also emphasized the importance of the repatriation of remains of soldiers missing in action in the Korean War, which would start “immediately.”
And the president reiterated that North Korea had committed to denuclearization.
“We will do it as fast as it can mechanically and physically be done,” adding that sanctions would only be removed once denuclearization had proceeded sufficiently “down the road.”
Asked why this time would be different than previous negotiations, when North Korea had reneged on agreements, Trump said that his administration was different — both in terms of its priorities and its abilities. He rattled off a prepared list of concessions he had secured from North Korea before and during the summit.
He also said that he believed Iran was also re-considering its policy, and hoped it would “come back and negotiate a real deal.”