The Art of the Deal – Part 2, Shifting Tone, Tweets Hopefully About North Korea

Vivian Salama, Michael C. Bender 1 hr ago
The U.S. cancellation came after a series of aggressive statements from North Korean officials in recent days, including personal attacks on Vice President Mike Pence and White House national security adviser John Bolton and a warning that Pyongyang would inflict “appalling tragedy” on the U.S.WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump struck a more optimistic note on Friday after North Korea said it remained willing to meet with him despite his decision a day earlier to scrap plans for a June 12 summit with leader Kim Jong Un.

“Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea,” Mr. Trump said in a Twitter message. “We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!”

Later Friday morning, Mr. Trump told reporters that dialogue with North Korea continued.

“We are talking to them now,” he said before boarding the Marine One helicopter for a trip to Annapolis, Md. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.”

Asked whether North Korea was playing games, Mr. Trump replied, “Everybody plays games.”

Secretary of State Jim Mattis, speaking Friday at the Pentagon with a visiting Danish defense official, said the latest round of comments may represent “possibly some good news on the Korea summit, where it may, if our diplomats can pull it off, may have it back on, even. That is a usual give and take, of trying to put together big summits.”

Mr. Mattis reiterated earlier comments diplomats are “in the lead and in charge” of the process and there has been no change in U.S. military posture.

The remarks marked yet another reversal in the tenor of rhetoric between the two countries as Messrs. Trump and Kim have moved haltingly toward a possible summit meeting to discuss long-term peace and denuclearization.

Mr. Trump unilaterally canceled the summit plans Thursday, citing “open hostility” from the North Korean regime, as his administration outlined plans to resume and accelerate a campaign of economic pressure against North Korea. He also warned Pyongyang that the U.S. holds military and nuclear superiority.

After canceling the planned summit, Mr. Trump also said he was open to reconsidering the decision.

In a restrained and cordial response to Mr. Trump on Friday, North Korea said it is still willing to meet.

“We express our willingness to sit down face-to-face with the U.S. and resolve issues anytime and in any format,” Kim Kye Gwan, a senior North Korea foreign ministry official and a longtime interlocutor with the U.S. on nuclear issues, said in a statement published by the North’s official state media.

Kim Kye Gwan is the same official whose harsh words last week against Mr. Bolton darkened the tone between the two adversaries.

The White House National Security Council held an afternoon meeting Thursday to discuss potential military action, new sanctions, and other paths forward, a White House official told The Wall Street Journal.

The administration is looking to impose dozens of new sanctions on North Korea early next week, one official briefed on the discussions said.

“If and when Kim Jong Un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting,” Mr. Trump said on Thursday. “In the meantime, our very strong sanctions—by far the strongest sanctions ever imposed—and maximum-pressure campaign will continue.”

Write to Michael C. Bender at

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