US President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for diplomacy in dealing with the threat of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, urging Pyongyang to “come to the table.”
“I really believe that it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and to make a deal that’s good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world,” he said in Seoul.
Trump, abandoning the aggressive rhetoric he has used in the past when speaking about the pariah state, also called on Russia and China to do more to help with North Korea, which he described as a “worldwide threat that requires worldwide action.”
“We call on every responsible nation, including China and Russia, to demand the North Korean regime end its nuclear weapons and missile programmes,” Trump told a joint press conference in Seoul alongside South Korean President Moon Jae In.
The US president said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “is threatening millions and millions of lives so needlessly” by continuing to pursue nuclear weapons.
“I believe it makes sense for North Korea to do the right thing, not only for North Korea, but for humanity all over the world,” Trump said. “I think we’re making a lot of progress … I do see certain movement, yes. But let’s see what happens.”
The president’s optimism represented a turnabout from his threats of “fire and fury,” which he directed towards Pyongyang in August.
While lauding the US military’s “strength” in the region as a warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear ambitions, he added, “We hope to God we never have to use [it].”
South Korea is a “long-standing ally of the US,” Trump said, and the relationship between the two countries is as “partners and friends who have fought side by side in a war.”
“We cannot allow North Korea to threaten all that we have built,” Trump said.
Moon announced that he and Trump had agreed to increase the payload for Seoul’s missile arsenal in the face of threats from Pyongyang, and he said Trump reaffirmed the US’s “iron-clad commitment to defend South Korea.”
“We agreed to work towards resolving the North Korean nuclear issue in a peaceful manner and bringing permanent peace to the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said.
While urging Pyongyang to halt its missile provocations, Moon also said that “we are willing to offer North Korea a bright future.”
At a state dinner at Blue House later Tuesday, Moon congratulated Trump on the first year since his election victory which falls on Wednesday.
“In Korea, we have a custom of holding a special celebration on one’s first birthday. So after pondering about how to best celebrate the first anniversary of President Trump’s victory, I decided to invite the president to Korea as a state guest and hold a banquet,” Moon said.
The South Korean leader said he now felt a “sense of intimacy” with Trump, “as if we were old friends.”
“Even at this very moment, the peace of my country, which was won with blood, is being threatened once again,” Moon said, adding that the alliance with the US “gives us the strength to stop this threat.”
Trump was in South Korea on the second stop of his five-country tour of Asia.
Trade also played a key part in Trump and Moon’s discussions, with the US president saying he hoped to “create lots of jobs in the United States, which is … one of the very important reasons I’m here.”
In his toast at the state dinner, Trump said: “May freedom and peace flourish on this peninsula. In our time, and for generations to come, this will be a special evening and a special time.”
During his 24-hour stay in South Korea, Trump did not visit the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.
He is scheduled to deliver a speech to the Korean National Assembly on Wednesday, likely focused on the North Korea threat, and lay a wreath at Seoul National Cemetery before departing for Beijing.
Trump kicked off the longest diplomatic trip taken by any US president in decades, arriving in the US state of Hawaii on Friday, the first stop on a nearly two-week trip that will also take him to China, Vietnam and the Philippines.