President Donald Trump said Thursday that "I am totally prepared to walk away" from next week's summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un if no agreement to denuclearize the peninsula can be reached.
"I'm totally prepared to walk," Trump told reporters at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the White House Rose Garden. "It could happen.
"Maybe it won't be necessary. I hope it won't be necessary.
"I believe that Kim Jong Un wants to do something that is going to be great for his people and also great for his family, great for himself."
Trump and Kim are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Singapore — and the president said the talks represented a start to a process that would ultimately lead to denuclearization.
He added the U.S. could "absolutely" sign an agreement to end the Korean War, tough the bloodshed stopped with a 1953 armistice, and that, eventually, "we would certainly like to see normalization" with Pyongyang.
"We could sign an agreement," Trump said. "That would be a first step.
"It's what happens after the agreement, but, yes, we could absolutely sign an agreement.
"That's really the beginning," the president added. "Sounds a little bit strange, but that's probably the easy part.
"The hard part is after that."
Regarding normalizing relations with Pyongyang, Trump said that is "something I expect to do, something to do when everything is complete.
"I hope to do that."
In the meantime, however, the "maximum-pressure campaign" will continue — though Trump said he was reluctant to use the term in light of the pending summit.
"Maximum pressure is in full effect," Trump told reporters. "We don't use the term anymore because we're going into a friendly negotiation.
"Perhaps after that negotiation, I'll use it again," he added. "We'll know how well we do with the negotiation.
"If you see me say, 'We're going to use maximum pressure,' you know the negotiation did not do well, frankly.
"In the meantime, we haven't removed any sanctions," the president said, noting the United States has "over 300 massive sanctions" ready to impose against Pyongyang.
"I decided to hold that until we make a deal," he said. "I believe there's a potential to make a deal.
"I don't think it's nice going in under those circumstances.
"Yes, the campaign hasn't changed. We're leaving all of the existing sanctions on.
"We have many, many sanctions to go," Trump said. "I don't want to use them unless it's necessary.
"I don't think it will be necessary," he added, "but we'll soon know."
President Trump ended the session by paying tribute to the family of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who died last June after Kim released him from 17 months of captivity, and by thanking the dictator for freeing three other American hostages last month.
"He has not died in vain," Trump said of Warmbier. "I can tell you that. He's not died in vain.
"To the Warmbier family, our love and respect.
"We were tremendously successful in getting our three hostages back," he continued. "I'm very thankful to the cooperation that we received from North Korea.
"The three United States citizens are now very happily ensconced in their homes with their families.
"They didn't think it was going to happen," Trump said. "Frankly, wouldn't have happened but it has.
"I just want to wish them well also. They had a tough journey.
"I really believe that we have the potential to do something incredible for the world," Trump said of the upcoming summit. "It's my honor to be involved."
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