US President Donald Trump said he will “absolutely” be willing to talk on the phone to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and that he hopes a positive development results from talks between North Korea and South Korea, Reuters reports.
North Korea agreed on Friday to hold official talks with South Korea this week, the first in more than two years, hours after Washington and Seoul delayed a military exercise amid a standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
Trump, answering questions from reporters at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, on Saturday, expressed a willingness to talk to Kim but not without preconditions.
“Absolutely, I would do that,” Trump said. “I have no problem with that at all.”
Trump and Kim have exchanged insults ever since Trump took office, with Trump repeatedly calling Kim “rocket man” for testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Earlier last week Trump dismissed Kim’s taunt that the North Korean leader has a nuclear button on his desk, saying he has a bigger button.
The talks between North Korea and South Korea are expected to cover the Winter Olympics, to be held in South Korea next month, and inter-Korean relations.
Trump suggested the talks might lead to an easing of tensions and took credit for the diplomatic breakthrough, saying it was a result of his steady pressure.
“Look, right now they’re talking Olympics. It’s a start, it’s big start. If I weren’t involved they wouldn’t be talking at all right now,” he said.
Kim “knows I‘m not messing around. I‘m not messing around. Not even a little bit, not even one percent. He understands that,” said Trump.
“If something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity, that would be a great thing for the world,” he said.
On Sunday, North Korea announced a list of five officials who will represent Pyongyang, a day after South Korea confirmed its representatives, the South’s unification ministry said.
The North’s delegation will be led by Ri Son-gwon, head of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland that is usually tasked with dealing with South Korean affairs.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Sunday Trump’s tweet about having a bigger nuclear button than Kim Jong-un’s has kept the North Korean leader “on his toes” and made clear the risks of a nuclear standoff.
After Kim asserted that he had a nuclear button at the ready, Trump last week dismissed the taunt by saying in a tweet that the US button at his disposal was bigger and more powerful.
The comment drew criticism, including from former Vice President Joe Biden, who said it caused allies to lose confidence in Washington.
Asked on the ABC program This Week whether the president’s tweet was a good idea, Haley said: “I think that [Trump] always has to keep Kim on his toes. It’s very important that we don’t ever let him get so arrogant that he doesn’t realize the reality of what would happen if he started a nuclear war.”
Haley said North Korea should be clear that the United States will not reduce pressure on Kim.
“We’re not going to let them go and dramatize the fact that they have a button right on their desk and they can destroy America,” she said.
“We want to always remind them we can destroy you too, so be very cautious and careful with your words and what you do.”
Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo also defended Trump’s nuclear button comment on CBS’ Face the Nation program, saying it was “consistent with US policy”, which was denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Pompeo said he still believed, as he had said in October, that North Korea is just a few months away from crossing the threshold to putting a US city at risk of nuclear attack. But he declined to be more precise.
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