*From:* "Landler, Mark" <xxx@nytimes.com>
*Date:* November 8, 2017 at 3:02:41 PM GMT+8
*Subject:* *[EXTERNAL] Fwd: WH Travel Pool Report #8 -- Gaggle*

Press Gaggle.

Many thanks to co-pooler Andrew Restuccia.

As Air Force One neared Beijing, a senior White House official spoke to reporters to sum up President Trumps stop in Seoul and to reinforce themes in the speech he delivered before the National Assembly, which the official described as historic.

Weve not see a speech that went into such great depth about the nature of the North Korean regime, that focused on the human rights abuses of North Korea, that talked about the international obligation to confront and deal with this threat by North Korea, the official said.

Turning to the rest of the visit, he said President Trump and President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed their commitment to the coordinated global pressure campaign to bring North Korea back to authentic denuclearization talks.

Trump, the official said, also committed to use the full range of military capabilities to defend South Korea and Japan and, of course, the United States itself against North Koreas capabilities. He said Trump talked about how there is a brighter path that North Korea can walk if it begins walking down the path toward denuclearization.

Advertisement

The official said, contrary to some armchair analysis, These weapons are putting the North Korean regime in greater danger; they are not making it safer. That is because there is a growing recognition of the intentions of the North Korean regime, which is to use these weapons to blackmail the United States and its allies.

They are designed to blackmail us into lifting sanctions, and into ultimately dissolving the alliance, getting American troops off of the peninsula, and into eventually reunifying the South and the North, under the North Korean regime, the official said.

The president sent a very clear message, he said: that is never going to happen, under our watch. Trump also offered a lesson on the history of North Korean aggression against Americans and South Koreans.

Advertisement

The official repeated Trumps contention that North Korea may have interpreted past American restraint for weakness. That would be a fatal mistake, he said.

In the Q&A, the official said in order to justify authentic talks, the DPRK needed to reduce the threat, ending provocations, and moving toward sincere steps to ultimately denuclearize. North Korea, he said, are the one putting forward pre-conditions, like refusing to put nuclear weapons on the table. That is a non-starter for us, he said.

Trump, the official said, does not believe that any legitimate agreement can exclude verification. It has to be verifiable cases, as he spoke about in the speech, he said. The official spoke about what he called the very disappointing history of American attempts at direct diplomacy with North Korea, going back to President George H. W. Bush.

Advertisement

On the question of whether the administration intended to designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, the official deferred to the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said, The president said hed make a determination at the end of the trip. Her statement is on the record.

Admin official: As for the ramifications, Ill refer you to State as to what that entails. But of course they were designated as a state sponsor of terror. It was one of the things that the previous administration lifted that part of the designation as part of a hopeful attempt to lure them into reversing the threat and of course that didnt work out, so Im would remind that they clearly fit the criteria for state-sponsored terror in a previous administration.

Question: You mentioned that part of the speech today was imploring Russia and China to do their part. Should we expect the president to make that message person-to-person with President Xi in the next couple of days.

Advertisement

Administration official: Certainly. Yes. I think the president has been clear that that is at the top of the agenda along with the severe imbalances in the U.S.-China economic relationship. Not just that trade deficit, but really the grossly unlevel playing field forced technology transfers for American companies and much more. So, North Korea will be high on the agenda.

Question: You keep saying that they need to abide by the UN Security Council resolution. What exactly are the Chinese not doing that they should be doing under those resolutions?

Administration official: Yeah, I think that if you look at the activity across that border certainly there is still some trade taking place. There are still some financial links that exist that should not under those resolutions. And of course China is doing much more than its ever done in the past. Its not the time for complacency of for allowing people to slip through loopholes and for a lot of that residual activity to continue. We know that some of that activity is continuing and were going to work closely with the Chinese to identify that activity and end it.

Advertisement

Question: Does the administration have any indication that North Korea is open to this brighter path that youve outlined?

Administration official: I wish I could say that is the case. I think our administration has made clear from the start that the door is open to dialogue and efforts to sort of probe have been rather discouraging. We know of course that the South Korean government tried over the summer just to do some very simple rudimentary discussions to conduct some discussions with the North on things like maintaining a hotline to avoid a military crisis. And of course the North didnt really return those phone calls. They have shown very little sign that theyre interested in talking. And if you go back further and you really look at the history, China, for many years, tried to persuade the current leaders father, Kim Jon-Il of the benefits of reform and opening like that that China undertook under Dontz Yao Pings era, reform and opening. They brought Kim Jong-Il to China six times I believe in the late 90s, early 2000s. Every time the North Korean leader returned home, they did virtually nothing. And we cant really explain it other than to speculate that perhaps they fear that reform and opening would actually be tantamount to regime change in their own minds. So, it doesnt have to be that way. We think there is a way for them to actually do right by their own citizens who are living in the most totalitarian system currently on Earth.

Questions: Just for clarification, did the president announce the bit about the state sponsorship of terrorism and I missed it, or?

Advertisement

Sarah Sanders: No. He just said that he would make a decision or have a decision at the end of the trip.

Question: What does movement toward denuclearization look like?

Administration official: Well, well certainly know it when we see it and were not even catching a whiff of it right now.

Advertisement

Question: Do you think he should tweet while hes in China? Do you see any problem with that? Is there any reason why the president shouldnt tweet while hes in China?

Administration official: No. The president will tweet whatever he wants. Thats his way of communicating directly with the American people. Why not? So long as he can access his Twitter account because Twitter is banned in China along with Facebook and most of the other social media. Im sure weve got the gear aboard this airplane to make it happen. But it is noteworthy that none of the major western platforms for social media are even allowed to operate in China.

Question: Can you give us a little bit more clarity on how the administration began planning the DMZ trip. Has this been in the works for months or weeks?

Advertisement

Administration official: I dont want to go into details about that at the moment, about the planning that goes into that.

Question: Other than the president, who wrote the speech today?

Administration official: It was a number of very talented writers working on Stephen Millers team, working very closely with National Security Council staff and of course there was a cast of many senior officials who had eyes on that speech as it was being formulated. I would like to give credit, but I need to ask permission of the speech writers before I could do that.

Advertisement

Administration official 2: The president was working on it up until the very end. These are the presidents words. He spent the entire time we had today making additional changes this morning while we were on the hold. Its very much his thoughts, his words and something he was engaged in throughout the process.

Administration official 1: We were doing edits this morning. Its very much the presidents voice.


Public Pool is an automated feed of White House press pool reports. For live updates, follow @WHPublicPool on Twitter.