President Donald Trump has "kept Kim Jong Un off balance," and that, along with the North Korean leader's diplomatic progress with China has made conditions ripe for a meeting between the two leaders, former Ambassador Nicholas Burns said Friday, while urging the United States to get China, Japan, and South Korea in "lockstep" for the meeting to be a success.
"I think this is positive that the president and Kim Jong Un are going to turn towards diplomacy because we were headed for a collision with North Korea," Burns, who had worked under both Democratic and Republican administrations during his 27-year career, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
However, he did urge Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to continue to get "verification at every step," while getting South Korea, Japan and China "completely united in lockstep" during the meetings.
Trump, since taking office just over a year ago, has had impact on China, added Burns, and has been able to get the U.N. to approve stronger sanctions and resolutions against North Korea.
Burns, who had been U.S. ambassador at one point to NATO and served as the third-ranking diplomat under former President George W. Bush, said he had never thought a meeting would take place between the United States and North Korea, and if one happens, it will be the biggest moment of Trump's presidency.
"There's never been a meeting between a North Korean leader and an American leader going all the way back to the late 1940s, when North Korea was formed," said Burns, who also served under Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. He noted that the United States has had agreements under Clinton and George W. Bush, but "they burned us."
Burns also urged caution going into the meeting.
"[Kim], his father, and grandfather have played the United States and South Korea before," Burns said. "[Kim] is in a very strong position. He has nuclear weapons. He's made progress on his nuclear and missile tests."
He also said he is not sure that Kim will make many concessions, even if he has agreed to meet with Trump.
North Korea, he told CNBC, wants "legitimacy. They want acceptance. I think they want to keep the nuclear weapons."
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