US President Donald Trump on Tuesday called for diplomacy in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, urging Pyongyang to “come to the table” and saying “it makes sense for North Korea to do the right thing.”
Trump, abandoning the aggressive rhetoric he has often 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 really believe it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table,” Trump said, noting that he sees “certain movement” towards that end on Pyongyang’s behalf.
“I think we’re making a lot of progress,” Trump added.
The president’s optimism represented a turnabout from his threats of “fire and fury,” which he directed toward Pyongyang in August.
On Tuesday, Trump described the US military’s “strength” in the region as a warning to North Korea to halt its nuclear ambitions, and 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,” he said.
While urging Pyongyang to halt its missile provocations, Moon also said that “we are willing to offer North Korea a bright future.”
Trump arrived in South Korea earlier Tuesday 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.”
During his 24-hour stay in South Korea, Trump does not plan to visit the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.
On Tuesday night, Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, are due to attend a state dinner at the Blue House.
Trump is scheduled to deliver a speech to the Korean National Assembly on Wednesday morning, likely focused on the North Korea threat, and lay a wreath at Seoul National Cemetery before departing for Beijing.
On Monday, Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks in Tokyo and agreed to maximize pressure on North Korea in order to force the regime to abandon its nuclear and missile programmes.
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.