Trump open to direct talks with North Korea

The Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump threw his weight behind the Olympics-inspired diplomatic opening with North Korea, telling South Korea’s leader Wednesday that the United States was open to talks with Kim Jong Un’s government under the right circumstances.

A White House statement said Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae In still agreed on the importance of continuing the “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons — the U.S.-led barrage of international sanctions that is starting to bite the North’s meager economy.

But South Korea’s presidential office also said Trump told Moon to let North Korea understand that there will be no military action of any kind while the two Koreas continue to hold dialogue, the Yonhap news agency reported. On Tuesday, the two Koreas held their first talks in two years and agreed on the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics being held in the South next month.

The prospects of resolving decades-old tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula remain deeply uncertain. North Korea has shown no willingness to discuss its nuclear weapons which pose an emerging threat to the American mainland, and it has stuck to its tough stance toward Washington while it tries to woo the South. The newspaper of the ruling party on Tuesday called Trump a “lunatic” and said the United States needs to accept North Korea is now a nuclear power.

But the thaw between North and South, which have also restored a military hotline, provides a diplomatic opening after months of escalating tensions that have fueled fears of war.

“President Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances,” the statement said.

Speaking later Wednesday, Trump claimed his administration’s pressure campaign had prompted the North Koreans to negotiate with the South, and recounted Moon as telling him the initial meeting was “extremely good.” He voiced cautious hopes for diplomatic success that would benefit not just the United States but the wider world. He played down fears of war.

“We have certainly problems with North Korea,” Trump said at a news conference. “A lot of good talks are going on right now. A lot of good energy. I see a lot of good energy. I like it very much what I’m seeing ... hopefully a lot of good things are going to work out.”


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