ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump has wrapped up a two-day meeting in Florida with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They've been talking about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and some contentious trade issues. The two leaders took questions at a news conference this evening. NPR's Scott Horsley was there and joins us now. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: One major topic of conversation was the possible upcoming meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. What more have you learned about that?
HORSLEY: President Trump revealed today that he sent his nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on a secret mission to North Korea over the Easter weekend. Pompeo's mission there was to lay the groundwork for an upcoming summit between the president and Kim Jong Un. Trump says the visit with Pompeo went smoothly, that a good relationship is taking shape. And he's optimistic his meeting with Kim may yield progress on denuclearization.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We've never been in a position like this with that regime, whether it's father, grandfather or son. And I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don't think it's going to be successful, Mark (ph), we won't have it. We won't have it. If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go.
HORSLEY: And the president said he would also be willing to walk out of the meetings if he gets there and then they turn out not to be productive.
SHAPIRO: Another sensitive issue between the two countries is trade. Has any progress been made on that front?
HORSLEY: It's a little bit of a mystery. You know, Trump pulled out of the big Asia-Pacific trade deal that Japan is a part of and that was negotiated by President Obama. Trump prefers to negotiate one-on-one with other countries. Up until now, Japan has resisted bilateral trade talks with the U.S. But Prime Minister Abe suggested through an interpreter this evening there may be movement on that score.
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PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: (Through interpreter) At this time, President Trump and I agreed to start talks for free, fair and reciprocal trade deals.
HORSLEY: Now, one caveat, Ari - Abe is talking there about deals, plural, suggesting he's still after some kind of regional trade agreement. And he adopted the Trump administration's preferred phrase of the Indo-Pacific region. Abe is also complaining about those steel tariffs that the Trump administration has slapped on Japan, and Trump himself made clear those tariffs, while supposedly imposed for national security reasons, are really just a bargaining chip that he would be willing to drop if he could get a trade deal with Japan.
SHAPIRO: You know, Scott, there's been so much news lately about the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. Did that come up at the news conference with President Trump today?
HORSLEY: The president was asked about that and whether he has decided it's just too politically risky to fire the special counsel or his Justice Department boss, Rod Rosenstein. Trump didn't really answer that question directly. Instead, he offered his usual defense that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, that the probe is a hoax. He once again insisted no one's been tougher on Russia than he has, although he did not explain the administration's apparent backtracking in recent days on another round of Russia sanctions.
SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Scott Horsley speaking with us from West Palm Beach, Fla. Thank you, Scott.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Ari.
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