President Trump offered assurances that North Korea would benefit from any deal it reaches with the U.S. regarding its nuclear program, amid uncertainty about whether negotiations between the two countries will actually take place.
North Korea has threatened to cancel talks between its leader Kim Jong Un and Trump scheduled for next month. Pyongyang said it viewed the joint military exercises held by the U.S. and South Korea as a provocation and that it would not give in to one-sided demands to give up its nuclear weapons.
Despite the threats, Trump said his administration continues to be in touch with North Korea about planning the logistics of the summit with Kim.
He said it would be in Kim's best interest to work with the United States to ease tensions in the region.
"The best thing he could ever do is to make a deal," Trump told reporters during a White House meeting Thursday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
North Korea complained about remarks from White House national security adviser John Bolton that the U.S. could follow the Libya model for denuclearization of North Korea.
Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program, but years later Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed in an uprising backed by NATO forces.
Trump attempted to clarify Bolton's comments, saying Bolton was referring to the approach the U.S. would take if talks failed.
If a deal is reached, Trump said Kim would be able to remain as the head of North Korea and the U.S. would provide strong security protections for the regime.
"He'd be running his country. His country would be very rich," Trump said.
North Korea has faced crippling economic sanctions due to its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
North Korea's threats to scrap the meeting with Trump represented a striking potential setback between the U.S. and North Korea, after weeks of warming relations between the two countries.
Last week, Trump had said he and Kim would try to make the summit a "very special moment for world peace."
But, Trump seemed to speculate China might be behind the shift in rhetoric from North Korea.
"I think things changed a little bit when they met with China," Trump said. "There has been a big difference since they had the second meeting with (China's) President Xi."
China is North Korea's longtime ally, but the two countries have had disagreements over North Korea's nuclear program. The U.S. has relied on China to help bolster its sanctions against North Korea.
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