Pres. Trump says North Korea has made nuclear concessions before talks

This photo from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on December 23, 2017 and released on December 24, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during the 5th Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea Cell Chairpersons. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS / - / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has made nuclear weapons concessions before even sitting down for talks, while the U.S. hasn’t given up anything.

President Trump’s assertions came before Friday’s summit between North Korea and South Korea that’s expected to pave the way for a historic meeting between President Trump and Kim in May or June.

President Trump told “Fox & Friends” that his tough approach toward the North, and now his willingness to engage with Kim, had reduced the risk of nuclear war. He contended that North Korea has “given up denuclearization, testing, research” and that “we’re going to close different sites.”

North Korea recently announced it will shutter its nuclear test site and suspend nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, and Kim has indicated he’s ready to discuss denuclearization. That marks a dramatic shift from the high tensions of last year, when in defiance of world opinion and despite intensified economic sanctions, North Korea rapidly conducted weapons tests.

“I’m saying to myself wait a minute, all of these things he’s given up and we haven’t even really that much asked them,” President Trump said. He added: “We would have asked them, but they gave it up before I even asked.”

But doubts linger over Kim’s readiness to relinquish nuclear weapons his nation already has, and what he’d want in return. North Korea is already at the brink of being able to threaten the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped missile, and views that capability as a safeguard against American aggression and a defense against regime change.

President Trump, who often accuses his predecessors of failing to address the North Korean threat, has argued that the only concession he has made was his surprise decision last month to accept Kim’s invitation for a meeting — the first ever between the leaders of the United States and North Korea during six decades of hostility. “I never gave up anything,” President Trump repeated.

Critics say Kim may see the summit as a way to burnish his international standing and legitimize North Korea’s declared status as a nuclear power.

President Trump acknowledged the rhetoric that both he and Kim deployed over the last year and the schoolyard taunts of nuclear “buttons” was “very, very nasty” and heightened fears of nuclear war. “This is a much more dangerous ballgame now, but I will tell you it’s going very well.”

He said “the nuclear war would have happened if you have weak people.”

President Trump revealed more information about outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s secret trip to North Korea this month, saying Pompeo wasn’t supposed to meet with Kim, but that they ended up talking for more than an hour. Pompeo, who won Senate confirmation Thursday to become secretary of state, was the most senior U.S. official to meet a North Korean leader since 2000.

“They had a great meeting,” President Trump said, without revealing what they discussed.

For now, the diplomatic initiative lies in the hands of the rival Koreas.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a key U.S. ally, were to meet Friday in the heavily militarized frontier between the Koreas. Moon will be looking to make some headway on the North’s nuclear bombs in advance of the Trump-Kim summit.

They’re also expected to discuss ways to both improve relations and settle the 1950-53 Korean War, which was halted with an armistice, not a peace treaty.