Trump Says He's Optimistic About Nuclear Deal With North Korea While Criticizing Iran's

Apr 30, 2018
Originally published on April 30, 2018 8:27 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Trump says he's optimistic about his upcoming summit with Kim Jong Un. Trump says so far, the North Korean leader has been straightforward about his promises to halt that country's nuclear program. During a White House news conference today, the president was much more critical of Iran's behavior. And he hinted once again that he may pull out of the Iran nuclear deal even as he tries to negotiate with North Korea. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from the White House. Hey there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.

CORNISH: There's still some uncertainty about Trump's planned meeting with Kim. So the president - even though the president sounded upbeat about it this afternoon, what's behind that?

HORSLEY: Well, he told reporters he thinks it's going to happen. Trump says he thinks it'll be a success. And he was asked to define that. He says it means North Korea getting rid of its nuclear weapons. As you say, there is still some uncertainty, though, including when and where this meeting might take place. They're looking at a number of possible locations, including Singapore. But the president is also weighing a spot along the Demilitarized Zone where the leaders of North and South Korea held their own historic meeting just last week.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There's something that I like about it because you're there. You're actually there where if things work out, there's a great celebration to be had.

HORSLEY: Now, once again, Trump cautioned that if things don't work out either at the meeting or in the run up to it, he's willing to walk away. But he pointed to encouraging signals coming from Kim and said the North Korean leader has lived up to his commitments for, quote, "a long period of time." In fact, it was just about two months ago that Kim first agreed to suspend nuclear tests during this period of negotiation.

CORNISH: At the same time, the president is much more skeptical of Iran's nuclear intentions. And he got some reinforcement today from Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. What does that mean for the Iran nuclear deal itself?

HORSLEY: Netanyahu was a longtime critic of the Iran nuclear deal. And he said today he thinks Trump will, quote, "do the right thing" by dropping out of that agreement later this month. Trump did not tip his hand about the decision he's facing on May 12, but he repeated his argument that the Obama-era deal doesn't go far enough in reining in Iran's behavior.

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TRUMP: They're not sitting back idly. They're setting off missiles, which they say are for television purposes. I don't think so. So we'll see what happens. I'm not telling you what I'm doing, but a lot of people think they know. And on or before the 12th, we'll make a decision.

HORSLEY: At the same time, Trump says he is open to negotiating a more comprehensive agreement. That's something he talked about last week with leaders of France and Germany.

CORNISH: The president held this news conference after a meeting with the president of Nigeria. Did they discuss some of the vulgar and disparaging comments that Trump reportedly made back in January? And that was about African countries and Haiti.

HORSLEY: Well, Trump says that didn't come up, although he kind of repeated the same sentiment in somewhat more diplomatic language today, saying there are countries that are very tough to live in. For his part, President Buhari said he wasn't sure the reports of the president's earlier comments were valid. So the best thing for him was to keep quiet. Earlier, the African Union had demanded Trump apologize for those remarks.

CORNISH: Lastly, critics of the president's travel ban have suggested that he should apologize for campaign comments about stopping Muslims from entering the U.S. Did the president do that?

HORSLEY: No. That suggestion had come up last week when the Supreme Court was weighing arguments about the travel ban. And although a reporter gave the president an opening to apologize today, Trump didn't take it.

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TRUMP: There's no reason to apologize. Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster. They're laughed at all over the world. They're laughed at for their stupidity.

HORSLEY: Also in his meeting today, the president warned Nigeria's leader that that country needs to lower its trade barriers, or its foreign aid could be in jeopardy.

CORNISH: NPR's Scott Horsley at the White House, thank you.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.