President Donald Trump has said that although he is looking ahead optimistically to a historic summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un he could still pull out if he feels the meeting is “not going to be fruitful”.
Mr Trump said that CIA director Mike Pompeo and Mr Kim "got along really well" in their recent secret meeting, remarking that "we’ve never been in a position like this" to address worldwide concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
But speaking alongside Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, after the allies met at Mr Trump’s Florida resort, he made clear that he would still be ready to pull the plug on what is being billed as an extraordinary meeting between the leaders of longtime adversaries.
“If I think that if it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful we’re not going to go. If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful I will respectfully leave the meeting,” Mr Trump told a news conference.
He also said that a US-led “maximum pressure” campaign of tough economic sanctions on North Korea would continue until the isolated nation “denuclearises.”
Mr Abe echoed the sentiment.
“Just because North Korea is responding to dialogue, there should be no reward. Maximum pressure should be maintained,” the Japanese prime minister said.
Mr Trump has said his summit with Mr Kim, with whom he traded bitter insults and threats last year as North Korea conducted nuclear and missile tests, could take place by early June, although the venue has yet to be decided.
It would be the first such leadership summit between the two nations after six decades of hostility following the Korean War.
Other than the threat posed to by North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, another issue overhanging the summit plans is the fate of three Americans detained there.
Mr Trump said that was under negotiation and there was a “good chance” of winning their release, but he would not say whether that was a precondition for sitting down with Mr Kim.
Mr Pompeo raised the question of the three Americans in his meeting with Mr Kim, a US official said.
Mr Trump also said he had promised Mr Abe he would work hard for the return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.
Tokyo says at least a dozen Japanese said to have been taken in the 1970s and 1980s remain unaccounted for.
News of Mr Pompeo’s trip to North Korea, which took place more than two weeks ago, emerged on Tuesday, as politicians weighed whether he should be confirmed to become secretary of state.
Mr Trump and Republican senators held up his highly unusual, secret mission as sign of Mr Pompeo’s diplomatic ability. But the prospect of his confirmation hung in the balance as Democrats lined up against him.