AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
President Trump is preparing to meet shortly with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It's a high-stakes sit-down at the conclusion of a G-20 summit with leaders of the world's biggest economies in Japan. Trump is also extending a surprise invitation to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He floated the idea of an impromptu handshake meeting this weekend at the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea.
NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from Osaka, Japan. And Scott, let's start with that meeting with Xi Jinping. It's one of the most consequential at this G-20 summit. What do we expect?
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Audie, a lot of handicappers are betting that Trump and she will declare a kind of ceasefire in their trade war. They would leave the existing tariffs in place, but Trump would hold off imposing additional tariffs while the two sides go back to the bargaining table. In fact, there was a report in the South China Morning Post that Trump had promised that bargain in order to get Xi to attend this meeting.
Now, Trump is insisting there was no such promise. He says the outcome of the meeting is still up in the air. Always the promoter, the president has urged people with an interest in the trade talks - and of course that's a lot of people - to stay tuned.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It will be a very exciting day, I'm sure. For a lot people, including the world, it will be an exciting day. A lot of people are talking about it, and it's very interesting. And it's going to come out hopefully well for both countries.
CORNISH: Now, we know from Japan the president is heading to South Korea, and we're getting some hints about what could be in store there. But what more have you learned?
HORSLEY: Yeah, Trump was set to meet this weekend with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and of course North Korea was going to be a major focus of that meeting. Talks aimed at ending North Korea's outlawed nuclear program broke off back in February, although in recent days, Trump has exchanged some messages with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
There is a lot of unscheduled time during the president's visit to South Korea, and there had been speculation that the president might try to visit the Demilitarized Zone. He tried to get there back in 2017 and was unable to land because of bad weather. Trump all but confirmed those plans a short time ago when he tweeted that he would like to meet the North Korean leader in the DMZ just to shake his hand, Trump said, and say hello.
Now, the tweet suggested this was a last-minute invitation. Trump prefaced it by saying, if Chairman Kim sees this. He told reporters he only thought of the invite just this morning.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
TRUMP: I just put out a feeler 'cause I don't know where he is right now. He may not be in North Korea. But I said if Chairman Kim would want to meet, I'll be at the border. Certainly we seem to get along very well.
HORSLEY: Now, Audie, it's possible there is actually more preparation behind this invite than the president's letting on. But Trump is certainly giving the impression that all of this is improvised, the kind of unpredictable seat-of-the-pants dealmaking that the president championed in the business world and which he is now trying to apply to the diplomatic world.
CORNISH: We'll continue to keep an eye on that angle of this. But I also want to move on to another meeting because the president met this morning with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. And the timing of that, frankly, people are looking at as awkward.
HORSLEY: That's right. It comes just days after the United Nations called for sanctions against the crown prince over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Now, both the president and the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ignored reporters' shouted questions about Khashoggi this morning. Instead the president focused, as he often does, on Saudi Arabia's role as a major buyer of weapons from the United States and the jobs that creates back home.
Now, those weapons sales have become a bone of contention. Some lawmakers in both parties have complained that U.S. weapons are contributing to a humanitarian crisis in Saudi Arabia's neighbor Yemen. But Trump is maintaining his steadfast support for the Saudis. He touts the country's efforts to fight terrorism, for example. And he downplays the Saudis' own role in regional troublemaking.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks.
HORSLEY: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.