On Saturday, people watch a television screen showing file shots of North Korea's missile launch during a news broadcast at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea has announced that it will freeze nuclear weapons tests. (Ahn Young-Joon / AP)
PALM BEACH, Fla. – The White House Trump is skeptical of North Korea's announcement that it will freeze nuclear weapons tests, and warns that dictator Kim Jong Un may be setting a trap and that Promise not to stray from a tough line before a possible leader summit.
President Trump called Pyongyang's move "progress" and "good news" in a tweets tweets after the news broke on Friday night. Behind the scenes, however, his helpers on Saturday warned that Kim's statement that the North would stop testing and close a nuclear facility would be more remarkable for what he left out: a direct promise to rely on nuclear disarmament.
Although some foreign policy analysts were encouraged that Kim was ready to set a positive tone for his summit with Trump, which could come in late May or early June, Trump's helpers were less enthusiastic. In her view, Kim's steps are aimed at providing relatively modest promises – which could be quickly reversed – to create the illusion that he is "reasonable" and ready to compromise.
That would have made the Trump helpers more politically difficult for the United States to reject the demands of the North.
Kim's announcement in Pyongyang on Saturday night surprised White House officials, who expected him to give some sort of explanation to the North Korean people ahead of a summit with Trump, but did not know when or how he would deliver it.
North Korea's state news agency read Kim's statement on television and published a written version in English. The young dictator promised to divert his regime's attention from the development of weapons and to boost the economy in an "upward spiral".
White House staff viewed the statement as a signal that Kim's goal is to help the United States and its allies alleviate the punitive economic sanctions initiated by the Trump administration since the presidency's inauguration. But they vowed that the government had learned from mistakes in the past in which North Korea violated agreements on its nuclear program after the sanctions were lifted.
The aides talked on the condition of anonymity, freely discussing private talks meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae – this week in what is considered a preliminary summit face to face with Trump. Date and location for the last mentioned summit have not been announced.
South Korean officials said that Kim has signaled that he is ready to discuss ways to formally end the Korean War, whose hostilities have been suspended since a ceasefire in 1953, the long-held claims of the North that the United States has tens of thousands of retreat troops deployed on the peninsula, dropping.
An important test for Trump will be to cope with the competing pressures of US allies in the region. Moons Liberal government is trying to close a deal to ease tensions over war fears, while conservative Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who views Kim's recent moves more suspiciously, is urging Trump to ensure that Japan's interests are protected in a final agreement.  Abe used his two-day visit to Mar-a-Lago, the president's winter quarters, to emphasize that Japan will insist on "complete, verifiable and irreversible" steps toward denuclearization. The Trump administration has also taken a similar position, raising the question of whether anything that missed such an agreement at a summit would have failed.
Some Washington-based analysts said on Saturday that a more realistic way for Trump would be tacitly acknowledging that the North, after having relentlessly developed its arsenal for three decades, will not take immediate, concrete steps to end the program ,
Another option, according to the proposals, would be to first impose restrictions on the arsenal of the North. how to limit the program with limitations to curb the threat. This would give the North the certainty of maintaining a degree of nuclear competence while managing the main bombardments and delivery systems. At the same time, the two countries would work towards greater confidence, which could lead to more serious talks on full disarmament on the road.
"The reality is that North Korea has nuclear weapons, and we need to address this reality," said Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Politics Program at the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace he promotes a cap to prevent the North from becoming "a full-fledged, combatable arsenal."
"The gap between reality and what we're planning is problematic," Dalton said. "It creates expectations that can not be fulfilled in the summit process, and we are back where we were. "
Efforts to limit the North's program could be interpreted as the Trump administration, which accepted North Korea's nuclear state, a controversial idea within the United States US government, where a policy of nuclear non-proliferation has long been considered a religious article.
Senior US diplomats for Asia, including Susan Tho Ronton, Deputy Secretary of State and Mark Lambert, head of the Korea office, are advocates of a policy that seeks complete denuclearization. But when reports of a possible "bloody bug" military strike circulated in North Korea last year, some US officials argued that containment was a short- or medium-term strategy for preventing military action. However, as a nuclear power, it remains an outlier position, especially in the light of the assumption that it is a trigger nuclear arms race, causing Japan and South Korea to pursue their own weapons
Jon Wolfsthal, who led arms control and non-proliferation policy The National Security Council under President Barack Obama said that there is great concern over accepting the North as nuclear power Even for a limited time, Pyongyang "would take that and leave." Many people are worried, and that's what Kim is trying to accomplish with the summit.
But Michael Auslin, an Asian scholar at Hoover's conservative institution, said it was becoming increasingly difficult for the United States to deny reality.  "We see a de facto normalization of North Korea's relations with the world when Kim Jong Un [Chinese President] met Xi Jinping, plans to meet with Moon, and now Abe wants a meeting, and then Trump becomes him meet, "said Auslin. "The reality is that everyone understands that these discussions are about a program that has turned North Korea into nuclear power."
Hudson reported from Washington.