A man stands at a counter as television screens display a news broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands following a document-signing event in Singapore, in an electronics store in Seoul, South Korea. (Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg)

Trump Says He Plans to Make Phone Call to North Korea on Sunday

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he will make a phone call to North Korea on Sunday, continuing his administration’s dialog with the regime days after his summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

“I’m going to actually be calling North Korea,” Trump said in an interview on Fox News. The president didn’t elaborate on who he would call or the purpose of the conversation, and the White House didn’t immediately provide more information.

Trump and Kim committed to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula during a summit in Singapore on Tuesday in a declaration that avoided addressing contentious details on how to achieve the goal and didn’t provide a timetable for progress.

Trump told reporters Friday that the decision he announced after his meeting with Kim to stop joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korea troops was his idea, not a response to a request from the North Korean leader.

“I said I’d like to halt it,” Trump told reporters during an impromptu question-and-answer session on the White House lawn Friday morning, repeating his observation that suspending the twice-yearly war games would save money.

The joint military exercises are a pillar of the seven-decade-old defense relationship between the U.S. and South Korea, a means of ensuring the forces are able to work together if attacked. The annual drills, separate from regular training programs, have long angered North Korea’s leadership, which views them as a rehearsal for an invasion.

Many of the roughly 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea rotate through on one-year assignments, and the continuous training prepares them for responding to an attack.

Trump said that he had always considered the military exercises too expensive, costing “‘millions” of dollars.” By suspending the joint exercises, he said, “I saved a lot of money.” He also repeated his description of the maneuvers as provocative, echoing North Korea’s frequent complaint about them.

“I hated them” from the day he took office, Trump said.

Pariah State

Trump also defended himself against criticism that his summit with Kim provided international legitimacy to a pariah state and that his effusive praise of the North Korean leader glossed over a brutal record of human rights abuses.

The president said the rapport he developed with Kim during the meeting will be critical to resolving the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “We had great chemistry,” Trump said, adding that’s more important than the agreement the two leaders reached.

Pressed by a reporter on why he set aside the atrocities Kim has committed, Trump responded, “Because I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family.”

“I gave him a very direct number,” Trump added.“ He can now call me if he has any difficulty. I can call him. We have communication. It’s a very good thing.”

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