WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump said on Saturday he would be willing to talk to North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-un and hoped that Pyongyang and its southern neighbor continue their dialogue beyond discussions regarding the upcoming Winter Olympics, to be held in South Korea from Feb. 9-25.
Asked at a news conference at Camp David (the US president’s country retreat in Maryland) whether he would be interested in speaking by telephone with Kim Jong-un, Trump said he always believed in dialogue.
“Our stance, you know what it is. We’re very firm,” Trump said. “But I would be ... absolutely, I would do that (speak with Kim). No problem with that, at all.”
But when asked whether he would sit down to negotiate with the North Korean leader with no prerequisites, Trump said “that’s not what I said, at all.”
“Look, right now they’re talking Olympics,” Trump said of North Korea and South Korea. “It’s a start. It’s a big start. If I weren’t involved they wouldn’t be talking about Olympics right now. They’d be doing no talking or it would be much more serious.”
“He (Kim-Jong-un) knows I’m not messing around. I’m not messing around. Not even a little bit. Not even 1 percent. He understands that.”
Trump also expressed his desire that North Korean athletes participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and that the neighboring countries continue to hold talks after the Games.
On Saturday, representatives of the two Asian nations held initial talks aimed paving the way for a scheduled high-level meeting on Tuesday, the first between the two countries in more than two years.
On Friday, Pyongyang accepted a South Korean proposal for a meeting on Dec. 9 in the border village of Panmunjom to discuss the participation of a North Korean delegation in the Winter Olympics and to seek generally to improve bilateral ties.
North Korea’s participation in Pyeongchang and a greater understanding between the two countries, which technically are still at war, could help alleviate regional tensions after a 2017 marked by constant North Korean ballistic missile tests and Trump’s belligerent tone.
Despite adopting a more conciliatory approach on Saturday, Trump fired back at the start of the year after Kim said his country’s nuclear arsenal was now complete.
“Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump tweeted on Jan. 2.