John Kelly: Trump's 'got his eyes wide open' on emerging diplomacy between US and North Korea

  • John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, said he believes President Donald Trump is going into diplomatic talks with North Korea with his eyes "wide open."

  • Kelly talked to NPR News on a number of topics in an interview published on Thursday night. On the talks with Kim Jong Un set to kick off in Singapore next month, Kelly said that Trump "really wants this to work," citing some missteps of administrations past.

  • Trump, less than six months into 2018, has pivoted sharply from the bombastic chest-beating of last year when a military conflict between the US and North Korea seemed inevitable.

  • And while diplomatic relations have improved, experts warn there's plenty that can still go wrong before Trump and Kim reap the fruits of their endeavors.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, made clear that he has full confidence in President Donald Trump as he prepares to meet the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un face-to-face.

"This president's got his eyes wide open. Believe me, the president really wants this to work," Kelly told NPR News in an interview published on Thursday night, in which he spoke on a range of topics concerning the administration.

Trump plans to meet Kim in Singapore next month for what will be a first-of-its-kind summit between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader. As news outlets and policy experts have noted exhaustively in the last few months, the top-line subject will be the North's nuclear weapons and missile programs.

To that effect, Kelly says Trump knows what the stakes are, and suggested that the US president is driven by a firm belief that denuclearization begins with North Korea.

"We talk fairly frequently about nuclear weapons and he's just astounded that the United States, that the human race has got itself into this dilemma with all of these nuclear weapons," Kelly said.

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"To help North Korea give up its nuclear program and its missile program would be a wonderful thing," he added.

The motive isn't entirely altruistic, however. President Barack Obama, as he was leaving office, warned Trump the North's nuclear aggressions would be among the most dire threats Trump would encounter.

Experts have more or less offered similar admonitions. With the Trump-Kim summit about a month away, others have suggested the odds might be stacked against the US, because North Korea has already gotten what it wants. Trump has said he's willing to walk away from the talks if he's unsatisfied.

To that, Kelly insists the president won't let Kim manipulate him.

"I know he won't fall for it in the same way that past presidents have, that get strung along, strung along lifting sanctions, giving them money, and get nothing for it," Kelly said.

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