President Trump took questions for 30 minutes during an Oval Office meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. He refused to say whether he had spoken to the North Korean leader, but he believes Kim Jong Un is "serious" about denuclearization. However, he suggested that the June 12th date for the Singapore summit may not work out.
"It may not work out for June 12," Mr. Trump said seated beside Moon. He added, "If it doesn't happen, maybe it will happen later."
"Frankly it has a chance to be a great, great meeting for North Korea and a great meeting for the world," said Mr. Trump, saying that the meeting "must" take place eventually.
"North Korea has a chance really to be a great country and I think they should seize the opportunity and we'll soon find out whether they want to do that."
"We are talking, the meeting is scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, and whether or not it happens, you'll know pretty soon," he said.
He ignored several questions about deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, saying the South Korean president "doesn't want to hear about those questions."
Partial transcript below, full transcript forthcoming:
TRUMP: Thank you very much. It's a great honor to have President Moon of South Korea with us. We become great friends over the years and it's now -- we've now known each other for quite some time. We're working on many things.
Obviously North Korea is the big one, no matter how big trade is, North Korea in this case is the big one. And we'll be discussing that. We'll also be discussing trade. We have a very big trade arrangement that we're re-negotiating right now with South Korea.
They've been excellent people to work with for the Trump administration. And we will have some pretty good news I think on trade. And we'll be discussing other things. But the big topic will be Singapore and the meeting, see what happens.
Whether or not it happens. If it does, that'll be great, it'll be a great thing for North Korea. And if it doesn't, that's OK, too. Whatever it is, it is. But I look forward to spending quite a bit of time with the President.
And I think a lot of good things will happen. I want to thank everybody for being here. Mr. President, great honor. Thank you, thank you.
MOON (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I would like to thank you Mr. President for your warm hospitality and for sharing much of your time with me. I know you have a very busy domestic calendar, as well as the all important U.S.-North Korea summit's approaching.
I heard the tragic news that many innocent lives were lost due to the shootings in Texas high school a few days ago. So I'd like to convey my condolences to you the American people. On a brighter note, I'd like to congratulate you for the safe return of the American citizens who had been detained in North Korea.
Thanks to your vision of achieving peace through strength, as well as your strong leadership, we are looking forward to the first ever U.S.-North Korea summit. And we find ourselves standing one step closer to the dream of achieving complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and world peace.
All this was possible because of you Mr. President. And I have no doubt that you will be able to complete and accomplish a historic feat that no one had been able to achieve in the decades past. I have to say that the fate in the future of the Korean peninsula hinged on this.
And as such, I'll spare no efforts to the end to support this success of the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit, and stand with you all along the way Mr. President.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. President? (Inaudible)?
TRUMP: I do think he's serious. I think he would like to see that happen. He'll -- at the same time he's going into a future that's different from what they've had. But I think he's absolutely very serious, yes.
QUESTION: Mr. President?
TRUMP: Go ahead, go ahead. John?
QUESTION: Can you give us an update sir, just on where things stand with -- with the summit? President Moon's National Security Advisor on the way here seemed to think that things are on track and that this indeed will happen.
TRUMP: Well we're moving along and we'll see what happens. There are certain conditions that we want and I think we'll get those conditions. And if we don't, we don't have the meeting and frankly it has a chance to be a great, great meeting for North Korea and a great meeting for the world.
If it doesn't happen, maybe it'll happen later. Maybe it'll happen at a different time, but we will see. But we are talking. The meeting's scheduled as you know on June 12th in Singapore. And whether or not it happens, you'll be knowing pretty soon. But we're talking right now.
QUESTION: ... denuclearization would take place, would it be ...
TRUMP: I do. I have a very strong idea how it takes place, and it must take place. That's what we're talking about, it must take place. So -- but I have a very strong idea and I have very strong opinions on the subject.
I also have very strong opinions that North Korea has a chance to be a great country. And it can't be a great country under the circumstances that they're living right now. But North Korea has a chance really to be a great country.
And I think they should seize the opportunity and we'll soon find out whether or not they want to do that. Yes?
QUESTION: Mr. President, have you spoken to Kim Jong Un?
TRUMP: I don't want to say that. I don't want to say.
QUESTION: Do you talk to Kim Jong Un?
TRUMP: I -- there's no reason to discuss that. I can say this, that for a short period of time, we've been dealing with North Korea. And it's been a you know good experience. We have three hostages back, they're home, they're living with their families.
They're very, very happy. And so I can only speak for a very short period of time. But it's been a relationship that seems to be working. And we'll see how long it continues to work. Hopefully it's going to work for a long time.
QUESTION: Unrelated, Mr. President, can you tell us more about your meeting with Rod Rosenstein and Director Wray yesterday? TRUMP: No I think it's a very routine meeting. As you know, the Congress would like to see documents opened up. A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign. If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country. That would be one of the biggest insults that anyone's ever seen. That would be very illegal, aside from everything else. It would make, probably, every political event ever look like small potatoes.
So we want to make sure that there weren't. I hope there weren't, frankly. But some man got paid, based on what I read in the newspapers, and on what you reported, some person got paid a lot of money. That's not a normal situation, the kind of money you're talking about.
So hopefully that would be -- and I think the Department of Justice wants to get down to it, and I can tell you Congress does. So hopefully they'll all be able to get together.
General Kelly's going to be setting up a meeting between Congress and the various representatives and they'll be able to open up documents, take a look and find out what happened.
But if they had spies in my campaign -- during my campaign -- for political purposes, that would be unprecedented in the history of our country.
QUESTION: Can you give us an update on trade talks with China? Is there a deal about ZTE, and what's...
QUESTION: ... what, specifically, have you agreed on?
TRUMP: No. President Xi and I have a great relationship, as President Moon can attest. But there is no deal. We will see what happens. We are discussing deals. We're discussing various deals.
We can do a 301, we can do -- where we don't need China, where we can just say, "Look, this is what we want. this is what we think is fair." That's always a possibility, if a negotiated deal doesn't work out.
As I said, we lost $500 billion a year for many years. And then it varied from $100 billion to $500 billion. When you're losing $500 billion a year, you can't lose in terms of a negotiation. It's really easy to win.
But I want this to be a great deal for the United States, and I want it to be a very good deal for China too, if that's possible. It may not be possible.
As far as ZTE is concerned, the president asked me to look into it and I am doing that. And don't forget, for the ones that say, "Oh, gee, maybe Trump is getting a little bit easy," ZTE, we closed it. It wasn't another administration. It was this administration that closed it.
It's a phone company, for those that don't know. A very large phone company. But it's also a phone company that buys a large portion of its parts that make up these phones that are sold all over the world, from American companies.
So when you do that, you're really hurting American companies also. So I'm looking at it. But we were the ones that closed it. It wasn't done by previous administrations, it was done by us. So we'll see what happens.
But as a favor to the president, I am absolutely taking a look at it. A lot of the stories on trade were incorrectly written. And IÕm not saying that's the reporter's fault, I'm saying that -- I'm not talking about the trade deal.
I don't like to talk about deals until they're done. So we'll see what happens.
TRUMP: But that deal, I will say, that deal could be much different from the deal that finally emerges, and it may be a much better deal for the United States.
QUESTION: Do you have confidence in Rod Rosenstein?
TRUMP: What's your next question for us (ph)?
QUESTION: President Trump, I'm a reporter from...
TRUMP: No, excuse me. I have the president of South Korea here. OK?
QUESTION: Yes. I have...
TRUMP: He doesn't want to hear these questions, if you don't mind.
QUESTION: President Trump, I'm a reporter from South Korea. How much -- how much confidence and (ph) trust (ph) do you have, as our president, in playing the mediator role in resolving this North Korean issue and (inaudible)?
TRUMP: I have great confidence in your president. I think that he's brought a different perspective to the talks with North Korea. He wants to be able to make a deal.
Now you've had some very hardline administrations, and you have President Moon and you've had others before President Moon who also had, more or less, this attitude.
I think he's a very capable person. I think he's an extremely competent man. I think he's a very good person, and I think he wants to have what's good for the Korean Peninsula. Not just North or South. For the entire Korean Peninsula.
So I have tremendous confidence in President Moon. And I think that his way, the way he is, really is helping us to potentially make a deal.
Whether the deal gets made or not, who knows. It's a deal. Who knows. You never know about deals. You go into deals that are 100 percent certain, it doesn't happen. You go into deals that have no chance, and it happens, and sometimes happens easily.
I made a lot of deals. I know deals, I think, better than anybody knows deals. You never really know. And that's why I say it to you. But I will tell you, this is a good man and he is a very capable man. And I think South Korea is very lucky to have him.
Do you want to interpret that for him so he can hear?
TRUMP: Because, you know, he's -- he's not hearing what we're doing here. Go ahead.
Go ahead. Wait, we'll just let that be interpreted.
He probably does (ph). He probably knows better than we do.
Did I do a good job?
I can't do better than that. That's called an A-plus rating, right? I can't do better. OK. We'll take a couple more...
QUESTION: What are your conditions (ph) for meeting with Kim Jong Un? He said he would (ph)...
TRUMP: Well, I'd rather not say. But we are working on something. And, you know, there's a chance that it'll work out. There's a chance, there's a very substantial chance that it won't work out.
I don't want to waste a lot of time, and I'm sure he doesn't want to waste a lot of time. So there's a very substantial chance that it won't work out. And that's OK.
That doesn't mean it won't work out over a period of time. But it may not work out for June 12th. But there is a good chance that we'll have the meeting.
QUESTION: Mr. President, maybe I could ask you and President Moon this question. If -- in terms of denuclearization, should it be an all-in-one or could it be incremental with incentives along the way, for Kim Jong Un to denuclearize?
TRUMP: Well, all-in-one would be nice. I can tell you. I'm not going to go beyond that. It would certainly be better if it were all in one. Does it have to be? I don't think I want to totally commit myself. But all in one would be a lot better.
Or at least, for physical reasons, over a very short period of time. You know, you do have some physical reasons that it may not be able to do exactly that. So for physical reasons, over a very short period of time. Essentially, that would be all in one.
QUESTION: As (ph) President Trump, I'm a reporter (ph) from South Korea. If North Korea and Kim Jong Un, they decide the CVID, will you really guarantee the safety of the regime of North Korea?
TRUMP: I will guarantee his safety, yes. We will guarantee his safety. And we've talked about that from the beginning. He will be safe, he will be happy, his country will be rich, his country will be hardworking and very prosperous.
They're very great people. They're hardworking great people. Look at what happened with South Korea. don't forget, we helped South Korea -- we have spent trillions of dollars. Not billions, trillions of dollars over many, many years.
We helped South Korea. And South Korea's one of the most incredible countries in terms of what they do. You know that. That's where you are. That's where you're from. Same people. Same people.
So, yeah, I think that he will be extremely happy if something works out. And if it doesn't work out, honestly, he can't be happy. But he has a chance to do something that maybe has never been done before.
And I think it would be -- if you look 25 years into the future, 50 years into the future, he will be able to look back and be very proud of what he did for North Korea. And, actually, for the world. But he will be very proud of what he did for North Korea.
QUESTION: Mr. President?
TRUMP: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. President, what do you want to hear from President Moon about his own summit with Kim Jong Un? What can he tell you as you're preparing for the meeting in Singapore?
TRUMP: Well that's what we're here for. He's going to tell me. He's got his own meetings that he's had, we're going to discuss that. He may have a meeting coming up, he may not. The word is that he -- that he may not, may be directly with us, it may go directly to us in Singapore or maybe at a later date.
But that's one of the reasons he's here, to talk about that. OK?
QUESTION: Anything you want to ask him specifically (ph)?
TRUMP: Nothing. No, we speak -- we speak a lot on the phone. This should not be that long a meeting actually.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you may have a meeting (ph) with -- with ...
TRUMP: He may or may not. He may or may not. Right now he doesn't know whether or not he has a meeting. But he may or may not have a meeting with Kim Jong Un.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you pleased with how the Korea talks with China went?
TRUMP: No, no. Not really. I think that they -- they're a start. But we need something -- look China has been -- I -- I really call it a dereliction of duties. That -- if you look at it, it's called -- in the military they'd say it's a dereliction of duty.
What happened to our country, that our representatives allowed other countries -- and I'm not just talking about China, China's the big one. To take advantage of us on trade the way we've been taken advantage of. So China as an example has -- has made a fortune.
I mean a transfer of wealth like nobody's ever seen in history. They're the big one. They're almost all bad but China's the big one. So no I'm not satisfied, but we'll see what happens, we have a long way to go. But I want it to go fairly quickly, OK?
You're talking about numbers like that, you're talking about billions of dollars of week, OK? So when they say let's meet in a couple of weeks, that's $2 billion, right? I view it that way. You know, we're talking about billions of dollars a week that we suffer, we lose.
And so we're looking to go quickly. I -- I will say I'm a little disappointed because when Kim Jong Un had the meeting with President Xi in China, the second meeting -- the first meeting we knew about, the second meeting I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong Un.
So I don't like that. I don't like that. I don't like it from the standpoint of China. Now I hope that's not true, because we have a -- I have a great relationship with President Xi. He's a friend of mine, he likes me, I like him.
We have -- I mean that was two of the great days of my life being in China. It was -- I don't think anybody's ever been treated better in China ever in their history. And I just think it was -- many of you were there.
It was an incredible thing to witness and see. And I -- we built a very good relationship, we speak a lot. But there was a difference when Kim Jong Un left China the second time. And I think they were dedicating an aircraft carrier that the United States paid for, OK?
Because we paid for a lot that was built in China.
QUESTION: ... China maybe discouraged Kim?
TRUMP: No, but I think that President Xi is a world class poker player. And I probably maybe doing the same thing that he would do. But I will say this, there was a somewhat different attitude after that meeting, and I'm a little surprised.
Now maybe nothing happened, I'm not blaming anybody. But I'm just saying maybe nothing happened and maybe it did. But there was a different attitude by the North Korean folks when -- after that meeting. So I don't think it was a great meeting.
Nobody knew about the meeting and all of a sudden it was reported that he was in China a second time. The first time everybody knew about, the second time was like a surprise. And I think things changed after that meeting. So I can't say that I'm happy about it, OK?
QUESTION: Mr. President? Mr. President, what's -- what's ...
TRUMP: Let them go.
TRUMP: Now President Moon may have a different opinion, I'd like to have your opinion on that. What you thought of the second meeting with President Xi, what -- what is your feeling? You may have an opinion.
TRUMP: And I don't want to get him in trouble, he lives next to China. You know, he's not too far away.