Donald Trump Would Be 'Honoured' to Meet North Korea's Kim Jong-Un
US President Donald Trump said he would be "honoured" to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un under the right conditions, dialing back threats of military action against the regime Monday.
File photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) and US President Donald Trump (REUTERS)
Washington: US President Donald Trump said he would be "honoured" to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un under the right conditions, dialing back threats of military action against the regime Monday.
As Pyongyang threatens to carry out a sixth nuclear test that would further enflame tensions on the Korean peninsula, Trump appeared to offer the prospect of a diplomatic off-ramp.
"If it's under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that," Trump said.
ALSO READ | North Korea Warns of Nuclear Test at 'Any Time'
In recent weeks Trump has threatened and berated the regime, fearing it may be months away from marrying nuclear and long range missile technology — making a strike against the western United States possible.
Trump's main gambit has been to encourage China to use its leverage to pressure Pyongyang — a strategy that has failed to produce results in the past.
In the latest rhetoric to fuel jitters across the region, North Korea warned Monday that it was prepared to carry out a nuclear test "at any time and at any location" set by its leadership.
The regime will continue bolstering its "pre-emptive nuclear attack" capabilities unless Washington scraps its hostile policies, a spokesman for the North's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency.
"The DPRK's measures for bolstering the nuclear force to the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership," the spokesman added, apparently referring to a sixth nuclear test and using the North's official name, the Democratic Republic of Korea.
- CIA director in South Korea -
The North has carried out five nuclear tests in the last 11 years and is widely believed to be making progress toward its dream of building a missile capable of delivering a warhead to the continental United States.
It raises the tone of its warnings every spring, when Washington and Seoul carry out joint exercises it condemns as rehearsals for invasion. But this time fears of conflict have been fuelled by a cycle of threats from both sides.
The joint drills have just ended, but naval exercises are continuing in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) with a US strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
CIA director Mike Pompeo was in South Korea on Monday, the US embassy in Seoul confirmed, following reports of an unannounced visit as tensions mount on the peninsula.
Pompeo's visit coincided with news that the controversial US missile defense system known as THAAD — whose deployment has angered China — is now operational in South Korea.
"It has reached initial intercept capability," a US defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
- 'A pretty smart cookie' -
Seoul regularly warns that Pyongyang can carry out a test whenever it decides to do so.
Trump on Sunday repeated his determination to resolve the threat posed by North Korea, warning in a CBS interview: "We cannot let what's been going on for a long period of years continue."
ALSO READ | In Call With Donald Trump, Xi Jinping Urges 'Restraint' on North Korea
But the US leader also offered some backhanded praise for Kim, saying he had faced a formidable challenge in taking over the country at a reported age of 27 after his father's death in 2011.
"So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie," he said.
That comment left the White House struggling to downplay Trump's apparent admiration.
"His point was he assumed power at a young age when his father passed away and there's a lot of potential threats that could have come his way and he's obviously managed to lead a country forward,” said Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
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