By Kevin Liptak, CNN
Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT) May 22, 2018
“There’s a very substantial chance that it won’t work out,” Trump said in the Oval Office, where he was sitting for critical talks with his South Korean counterpart. “That doesn’t mean that it won’t work out over a period of time, but it may not work out for June 12.”
It was the clearest indication to date that the audacious summit Trump agreed to in March may be at risk. Last week, North Korea adopted a harsh new tone and threatened to withdraw from the meeting, which is due to occur in Singapore.
Hours after Trump spoke, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to cast a more optimistic view of the talks, appearing for the first time in the State Department briefing room to insist a June 12 meet was still the goal.
“We’re working to make sure that there is a common understanding about the contents of what will be discussed. But I’m optimistic,” Pompeo said. “It could be something that comes right to the end and doesn’t happen. As the President said, we’ll see. And that is the place that we find ourselves.”
Trump also maintained that preparations were “moving along” for the talks with Kim; indeed, advance teams are surveying hotel ballrooms in Singapore as possible venues. But the President suggested there may not be enough time for the two sides to agree on mutually agreeable parameters.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “If it doesn’t happen, maybe it’ll happen later. Maybe it’ll happen at a different time. But we are talking.”
In his meetings Tuesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump hoped to gain clarity on North Korea’s nuclear intentions
. Moon, meanwhile, was hoping to shore up confidence for the Kim meeting, which he helped to broker.
Some US officials believe Moon oversold Pyongyang’s promises when his government relayed Kim’s invitation to Trump for talks in March. At the time his envoy said North Korea was “committed to denuclearization,” but recent statements from the North have cast doubts on Kim’s willingness to negotiate away his nuclear weapons.
That, in turn, has led to skepticism the summit between Trump and Kim will proceed. White House aides have grown pessimistic in recent days that the talks will occur, and Trump underscored the uncertainty on Tuesday.
He again accused China of meddling in his diplomatic overtures with North Korea, saying Beijing was to blame for the new harsh tone from Pyongyang after Kim met in early May with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“I think things changed after that meeting and I can’t say I’m happy about it,” Trump said.
But he insisted he believed Kim was earnest in his nuclear vows, and suggested Pyongyang had much to gain from striking a deal.