US President Donald Trump has opened the door to meeting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, saying he would be honored to meet the young leader under the right circumstances, Reuters reports.
This comes even as Pyongyang suggested it would continue its nuclear weapons tests.
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump told Bloomberg News.
The comments drew criticism in Washington.
“Under the right circumstances I would meet with him,” Trump said.
Trump did not say what conditions would need to be met for any such meeting to occur or when it could happen, but the White House later said North Korea would need to meet many conditions before a meeting could be contemplated.
“Clearly conditions are not there right now,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
“I don’t see this happening anytime soon,” Spicer added.
Trump, who took office in January, had said during his presidential campaign he would be willing to meet with Kim.
His administration has since said North Korea must agree to abandon its nuclear and missile programs and has sought to pressure Pyongyang economically and diplomatically while insisting that military options remain “on the table”.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the United Nations Security Council that Washington would not negotiate with North Korea. US Vice President Mike Pence, earlier on Monday, said Trump had made clear “that the era of strategic patience is over”.
Later on Monday, a US State Department spokeswoman said in a statement: “The United States remains open to credible talks on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula; however conditions must change before there is any scope for talks to resume,” adding that North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons program.
Despite that, Trump’s statement that he would be “honored” to meet Kim – as well as his description of the young North Korean leader over the weekend as “a pretty smart cookie” – sparked fresh concern over his approach to North Korea.
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