Updated at 11:45 a.m. | Just two days before Trump is set to meet with China’s president in Singapore, South Korea, the White House signaled on Monday that some contentious points remained outstanding — particularly as it relates to Chinese trade and North Korea.
In an on-camera briefing, Vice President Mike Pence said that the discussions over the missile defense funding agreement with Seoul have been difficult.
“President Trump has told our administration that he’s going to talk about his plans for South Korea during his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un,” he said. “Those conversations will take place at a later date. The United States wants to maintain security assurances for the people of South Korea and also wants to encourage positive and constructive outcomes from the historic summit meeting between President Trump and President Kim. The agreement provides $200 million in funding, which is $150 million more than the last time that funding was enacted. And it is also a record of enormous progress made by this administration in opening the Korean Peninsula to trade, cooperation and friendship for the first time in more than half a century.”
He said that military and diplomatic talks with North Korea had progressed “a long way” and that the “decision to put another $150 million of that agreement at risk is a final blow, as far as the United States government is concerned, to that progress. And it doesn’t make any sense.”
When asked what that meant, a spokeswoman for Pence, Alyssa Farah, offered a bit more detail about those negotiations.
“As the vice president said, this money is essential to defense against North Korea, and today’s announcement is a final blow to the progress that we have made,” she said. “Unfortunately, despite the positive results we’ve seen and the very high hopes that so many Americans had, President Trump has chosen to risk all that to threaten a deal that will never come to fruition.”
A short time later, South Korea’s unification minister, Cho Myoung-gyon, told reporters in Seoul that Kim had requested that Trump not cut off the current negotiations on the funding.
“It’s true that the North Korean leader asked for the continuation of the dialogue,” Cho said.