Trump Warns Summit With North Korea May Not Happen On Schedule "There's a chance, there's a very substantial chance that it won't work out," President Trump said of the June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un. Trump met with South Korea's president Tuesday.

Trump Warns Summit With North Korea May Not Happen On Schedule

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump is meeting today at the White House with South Korea's president Moon Jae-in. The two men are partners in an effort to strip North Korea of its nuclear weapons. But at times this has really been an uneasy partnership. Not so long ago, Trump was criticizing South Korea over trade policies and what Trump saw as a free-loading reliance on the U.S. military. Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump often complained, as he did here on CNN, that the U.S. was getting a raw deal for military and economic partners around the world.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You look at what the world is doing to us at every level. Whether it's militarily, or in trade or in so many other levels, the world is taking advantage of the United States.

HORSLEY: South Korea was one of Trump's top targets. As president, he's argued South Korea should be paying more for the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed there. Seoul did pick up most of the $11 billion cost to expand the U.S. military base, but during a visit to South Korea last fall, Trump said that wasn't good enough.

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TRUMP: That money was spent, for the most part, to protect South Korea, not to protect the United States. But some of that money was spent by us. That being said, that was long before my time, and I'm sure I could have built it for a lot less.

HORSLEY: Trump also complained about the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea, which was more than $10 billion last year despite an Obama-era trade agreement.

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TRUMP: A deal that, frankly, has been quite unsuccessful and not very good for the United States.

HORSLEY: Two months ago, the administration struck a new trade deal with South Korea that limits steel imports from that country and extends a tariff on imported pickup trucks. While Trump was complaining about South Korea, Seoul had worries of its own, including Trump's own bellicose rhetoric towards North Korea. Here's the president speaking at the U.N. last September.

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TRUMP: The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

VICTOR CHA: Whenever that discussion moved to talk of possible military action, I think that's where the South Korean government was not on board.

HORSLEY: Victor Cha is a Korea expert who was considered but ultimately passed over as Trump's ambassador to Seoul. He says, despite its apprehension about military action, South Korea went along with tough economic sanctions against the North, and South Korean officials have regularly flattered Trump for his diplomatic prowess. When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued his surprise invitation for a summit meeting with Trump, South Korea's National Security Director Chung Eui-yong was careful to give the U.S. president most of the credit.

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CHUNG EUI-YONG: His leadership and his maximum-pressure policy, together with international solidarity, brought us to this juncture.

HORSLEY: That summit meeting next month between Trump and Kim is now in some doubt after North Korea suggested it might not be ready to give up its nuclear weapons. Even if the meeting takes place, the U.S. and South Korea are potentially divided over what should happen next. The Trump administration insists North Korea must completely dismantle its nuclear program before getting any relief from economic sanctions. South Korea, on the other hand, might go along with a more phased approach. Brookings analyst Jonathan Pollack says that's one of the questions Trump and Moon will have to address.

JONATHAN POLLACK: Moon is a resourceful politician. He's played his cards very well. But there's just so much that could go off the rails here when and if Trump does in fact go to Singapore.

HORSLEY: Trump is eager for a diplomatic victory with North Korea, but Victor Cha, who served in the George W. Bush White House, says it's likely to be a bumpy road.

CHA: You don't get fairy tale endings with North Korea. It tends to be much more difficult and rocky and dirty and suspense-filled.

HORSLEY: That will again test the strength of the decades-old alliance between Washington and Seoul. Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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