Trump and Angela Merkel address Iran, North Korea in joint press conference

Trump on hopes for meeting with North Korea

President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel managed to fit in a joint news conference during her brief three-hour visit to the White House, her first trip outside Germany since she narrowly won re-election to her fourth term. North Korea, trade and Iran and the Iran deal were high on the agenda.

Mr. Trump declined to say whether he has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un directly. But he did say they have a "good working relationship." 

"I don't want to comment on that but we have a very good working relationship," Mr. Trump said. "We're setting up a meeting. Things have changed very radically from a few months ago. You know the name calling and a lot of other things. We get a kick every once in a while out of the fact that I'll be watching people that failed so badly over the last 25 years explaining to me how to make a deal with North Korea, I get a big, big kick out of that."

Mr. Trump has called Kim "little rocket man," and Kim, for his part, has called Mr. Trump a "dotard" and a "frightened dog." But days ago, Mr. Trump praised Kim's behavior as they look to set up a meeting, saying he has been "very honorable."

"I will be meeting with Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks, we look forward to that," Mr. Trump said Friday, claiming his administration will "not repeat" the mistakes of past administrations. He also said that the list of possible locations for a meeting has been narrowed.

"We're down to two countries as to a site, and we'll let you know what that site is," the president said. 

In a meeting with Merkel before lunch, Mr. Trump said he doesn't think Kim is "playing," although other administrations were "played like a fiddle" because the U.S. had different leaders. The North and the South signed a pledge Friday to seek a formal end to the Korean War by the end of the year and to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons. They have not specified how they would achieve this. 

Merkel's visit follows a three-day visit from French President Emmanuel Macron, after which Macron said he believes Mr. Trump will leave the Iran nuclear deal. Merkel also seemed to indicate that whether the U.S. stays in the Iran deal is up to Mr. Trump. As the deadline for certifying the Iran deal quickly approaches, and the administration has suggested Mr. Trump might pull out, Mr. Trump addressed Iran and the deal in general terms. He did not say whether he has decided to stay in the deal.

"We must ensure that this murderous regime does not even get close to a nuclear weapon," Mr. Trump said.

The president declined to say whether he would consider using military force in Iran, if necessary. 

"I don't talk about whether or not I'd use military force ... but I can tell you this, they will not be doing nuclear weapons ... you can bank on it," the president said.

Another issue of international importance is up to Mr. Trump, Merkel said — the exemption from the steel and aluminum tariffs levied by Mr. Trump is about to expire. She did not indicate whether the president had given her any assurances that the EU would continue to be exempted. "The decision lies with the president," she said through a translator.

Mr. Trump also addressed the anticipated opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem next month, saying he "may go." 

The president also talked about another major topic in Washington this week — the controversy over his former VA secretary pick Ronny Jackson, who withdrew his name from consideration after Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee released a list of unsubstantiated claims. Mr. Trump called those allegations "False."

"He's an American hero, and I think he's been treated very unfairly," said Mr. Trump. 

The president said he has a few people in mind for the job, although he didn't elaborate.