STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
So the story from the White House is President Trump does not want to look weak. In particular, he does not want to look weak as a summit with North Korea's leader looms. And adviser Larry Kudlow said over the weekend that that is why Trump lashed out at Canada's prime minister. He left a trail of angry tweets as he headed for the other side of the globe, not wanting Canada to push him around on trade. Now the president is in a hotel in Singapore less than half a mile from the hotel of North Korea's Kim Jong Un. We have a team of NPR reporters covering the summit, including Scott Horsley, who covers the White House.
Hey there, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK, so glad you're in Singapore. Let me just ask you, do his advisers think that the president is focused and prepared and backed by allies in the way that they want as this summit looms?
HORSLEY: You know, I'm not sure there was anything so calculated about the president's lashing out at Justin Trudeau as he traveled from Canada here to Singapore. His tweets about the Canadian prime minister looked very much like the impulsive reaction of a president who was watching a news conference on television that he didn't like. He had - you know, his advisers had told reporters just hours earlier that the U.S. was going to sign on to the G-7 communique, and then President Trump abruptly reversed course as he was traveling here to Canada - from Canada here to Singapore. Whether that sort of impulsive change of direction is what you want as you try to convince North Korea that you are a reliable deal-making partner is an open question.
INSKEEP: OK. So it could be that this was sort of retroactive explanation for why the president was angry. But you raise an interesting point. The United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. What the United States wants to offer in return, in broad terms, is security guarantees for North Korea. Is it clear in the minds of U.S. officials, at least, what kind of offer they can put on the table that is detailed that would show how to do that?
HORSLEY: Well, you know, Kim Jong Un is already getting a lot of what he wants out of this summit. He will be sharing the summit stage with the U.S. president, the first North Korean leader to meet with a sitting U.S. president. That, all by itself, gives Kim legitimacy, a show of power. And also, even though the Trump administration insists that the policy of maximum pressure and tough economic sanctions will remain in place against North Korea, we're already seeing cracks in that sanctions regime. And it's going to be very difficult to insist that China, Russia, other countries continue to tighten the screws on North Korea at a time when the president is sitting down, meeting with Kim Jong Un and referring to that North Korean leader as very honorable.
So North Korea is already getting a lot of what Kim wants. On top of that, the U.S. has said they're prepared to offer him security guarantees for his country and his regime, as well as economic aid, although the president says that economic aid would likely come from North Korea's Asian neighbors, not directly from the United States.
INSKEEP: OK, so that is the circumstance as we get ready for the summit on Tuesday - Monday night of the United States, Tuesday morning in Singapore where you are. What's the scene? And where will they be meeting?
HORSLEY: They're meeting at a resort hotel on Sentosa Island here in Singapore. The two leaders are staying in separate hotels, and the resort hotel is sort of a third, neutral space. The president tweeted today that there's a lot of excitement in the air. I can tell you there's certainly a lot of humidity in the air and also some last-minute diplomacy. You know, this summit has come together relatively quickly. It was less than three weeks ago that Trump had withdrawn from it. And since then, we've heard - we've seen a flurry of activity of diplomats trying to flesh out what these two leaders will be talking about tomorrow or late today, U.S. time. And those talks continued right up until this morning.
INSKEEP: Scott, thanks, as always.
HORSLEY: You're welcome.
INSKEEP: And safe travels. NPR's Scott Horsley in Singapore.
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