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Trump: N. Korea summit will be in May or early June

WASHINGTON -- US President Donald Trump said Monday he plans to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next month or in early June to "hopefully" reach a deal on denuclearizing the regime.

Trump made the remarks at a cabinet meeting where he also acknowledged the two sides were in talks to prepare for the meeting.

US President Donald Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton at Monday`s cabinet meeting at the White House. Yonhap
US President Donald Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton at Monday`s cabinet meeting at the White House. Yonhap

"North Korea, by the way, as you've probably seen -- and we've been in touch with North Korea -- we'll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June," he said.

"And I think there'll be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully we'll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea. They've said so; we've said so. Hopefully, it will be a relationship that's much different than it's been for many, many years."

The White House had previously said the president would meet with Kim before the end of May. The unprecedented meeting was arranged through a group of South Korean envoys who met with Kim in Pyongyang last month. The envoys said Kim had expressed a commitment to denuclearization and promised to halt nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

On Sunday, the White House confirmed that North Korea had told the United States it was willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"This should have been done by other presidents and they've decided they didn't do it," Trump said. "They couldn't have done it. But it would have been a lot easier if it were done five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. A lot easier than now. But we have a meeting that is being set up with North Korea. So that will be very exciting, I think, for the world. I think it's going to be a very exciting thing for the world."

Trump also talked about the recently renegotiated free trade agreement between South Korea and the US, saying he think it's going to be "a very fair deal."

"We're close to finishing a deal with South Korea, which was a horrible deal," he said. "It was going to give us 200,000 jobs. Well, that didn't exactly happen. It gave them 200,000 jobs. We lost jobs. And it was a horrible deal, and that's being renegotiated. And we have a long way to go, but we've made a tremendous progress."

The two sides announced last month that they reached an agreement "in principle" to further open South Korea's auto market to the US in exchange for South Korea's exemption from new US tariffs on steel imports.

Trump later threatened to hold off on signing the renegotiated deal until after his summit with Kim, which was widely seen as a move to pressure Seoul to remain tough with Pyongyang.

South Korea has been keen to lower tensions on the peninsula and some fear that it could bend to Pyongyang's demands. The two Koreas are set to hold a summit on April 27.

"And as I said, the North Korea and South Korea situation, which complicates it -- the deal that we have with South Korea, I think, is going to be -- I think it's going to be a very fair deal. We want a fair deal. And we don't have fair deals," Trump said. (Yonhap)