(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is calling North Korea’s reported willingness to engage in discussions with the United States a positive development, saying it would be a “great thing for the world.”
Trump said “we’re gonna see” if the North Koreans are willing to give up their nuclear weapons but that the dialogue has come a long way.
“I think that their statement and the statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “That would be a great thing for the world so we’ll see how it all comes about.”
When asked if he were optimistic, the president said he’d like to be but that the administration is at a point previously administrations didn’t reach with the North Koreans.
“I’d like to be optimistic but I think maybe this has gone further than anyone has taken it before. Nobody’s been in a position.. this should have been handled long ago. This should have been handled over many years by many different administrations, not now,” he said. “This was not the right time to handle it but these are the cards we were dealt.”
“We’re handling it properly and again, as I said, hopefully we’ll go in the very, very peaceful beautiful path – we’re prepared to go whichever path is necessary. I think we are having very good dialogue and you’re gonna certainly find out pretty soon what’s happening but we have made progress there’s no question about it.”
Earlier in the day Trump tweeted that the new move from the North Koreans indicated “possible progress.”
In Tuesday morning tweets, the president noted that while “a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned” he added, “May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”
Earlier Tuesday, South Korea’s national security chief, Chung Eui Yong, announced that following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea was willing to talk to the U.S. to discuss denuclearization and normalize North Korea-U.S. relations. The North, he said, also promised not to use nuclear and conventional weapons against South Korea, and made clear it would not continue with additional nuclear experiments and ballistic missile tests.
Vice President Mike Pence, who recently visited South Korea for the Winter Olympics, and who has often taken the Trump administration lead in dealing with North Korea, issued a statement responding to the North Korean diplomatic bid.
“Whichever direction talks with North Korea go, we will be firm in our resolve,” Pence said. “The United States and our allies remain committed to applying maximum pressure on the Kim regime to end their nuclear program. All options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible, verifiable, and concrete steps toward denuclearization.”
The Trump administration has repeatedly said it will only engage in direct talks with North Korea only if it commits to full denuclearization. On Feb. 23, the U.S. put new sanctions on 27 trading and shipping companies, 28 vessels, and one individual for evading U.S. and United Nations embargoes on trading oil, coal, and other fuel with North Korea. The administration also warned it might even impose a military blockade to stop North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
During a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull that day, Trump once again touted the steps taken by his administration and called for global unity against North Korean aggression.
“We put the strongest sanctions on Korea that we have ever put on a country,” he said. “We must continue to stand together to prevent the brutal dictatorship from threatening the world with nuclear devastation.”
When asked whether all options would be on the table if the sanctions didn’t work, the president painted a possible grim alternative.
“If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go phase two. And phase two may be a very rough thing. May be very, very unfortunate for the world. But hopefully the sanctions will work,” he said. “We have tremendous support all around the world for what we’re doing. It really is a rogue nation.”
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