A screen displays a news broadcast of of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands at the DPRK-U.S Singapore summit, at Seoul station in Seoul, South Korea. (Photographer: Jean Chung/Bloomberg)

Trump Tosses Out Deadlines on North Korea Denuclearization Plan

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he sees no need to set a timetable for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.

“We’re not playing the time game,” Trump said Wednesday during a press conference in New York capping his visit to the United Nations General Assembly. “If it takes two years, three years or five months, doesn’t matter.”

The administration has sent mixed messages on when it wants to see North Korea denuclearize, setting deadlines of one year to the end of Trump’s first term, in early 2021.

Trump also said he had avoided a war with North Korea that otherwise would have been certain.

"If I wasn’t elected, you’d be in a war" with North Korea, Trump said Wednesday during a press conference to cap his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Obama was "close" to pressing the trigger to go to war with North Korea, Trump said. He didn’t offer any evidence to support the assertion.

Ned Price, who was a spokesman for the Obama National Security Council, disputed Trump, saying the former president wasn’t considering going to war with North Korea because of the “massive casualties” forecast in such a conflict.

“The Department of Defense always looks at contingencies, but the Obama administration was consistently of the belief -- informed by the best thinking and analysis from our intelligence community, war fighters, and diplomats -- that diplomacy was the only viable option given what we knew would be catastrophic implications of a conflict on the peninsula,” Price said.

Trump has lavished praise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, while promoting a second summit with him that the U.S. president said could take place soon. Trump claimed earlier that North Korea has made more progress toward denuclearization than is publicly understood, citing unknown actions taking place “behind the scenes.’’

Trump revealed during a meeting Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he had received an “extraordinary” new letter from Kim the day before but didn’t say what the dictator had written.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met North Korea’s foreign minister in New York Wednesday and agreed to travel to Pyongyang next month as the two sides continue to prepare for a second summit between Trump and Kim. The U.S. seeks to persuade Kim and his regime to abandon North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

Top officials from the U.S. intelligence community have indicated that North Korea faces a long road to denuclearization, and some have indicated that Kim has continued to develop his nuclear program in the months since his June 12 summit with Trump.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.