WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he believes North Korea is “sincere” in its efforts to engage in dialogue with Washington and Seoul, but he added that this has only come about thanks to international sanctions on Pyongyang and pressure from China.
“I believe they are sincere,” Trump said. “I hope they’re sincere. We’ll soon find out.”
Trump said that North Korea’s new stance had resulted from “very, very strong” sanctions and the “big help” China had provided for North Korea’s offer to enter into talks.
“(China) can do more but I think they’ve done more than they’ve ever done for our country before,” he said.
The US president reacted Tuesday with cautious optimism to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s statement that he would be willing to give up his nuclear weapons if his regime received a US security guarantee and his promise to halt his country’s nuclear program while dialogue with Washington and Seoul is under way.
“I think that ... the statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive,” Trump said to reporters at the start of his meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. “So we’ll see how it all comes about.”
During the joint press conference with Lofven, Trump said that he was firm about his commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, saying of the chance for dialogue “We have come – certainly – a long way, at least rhetorically, with North Korea,” and adding “It’d be a great thing for the world ... (but) we’re going to see what happens.”
Kim said Tuesday at a meeting with South Korean officials that he was ready to discuss denuclearization with Washington, adding that removing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula was the expressed desire of his father, Kim Jong-il, before he died in 2011.
Pyongyang placed no pre-conditions on the idea of negotiating with the US or South Korea, but rather emphasized its desire to be treated seriously in such talks, according to the head of the South Korean delegation, Chung Eui-yong.
Talks on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula – in which the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan are participating – have been halted for more than a decade and constitute the latest contact of any substance on North Korea’s nuclear program between Pyongyang and Washington.
Also at the joint press conference, the Swedish leader warned Trump that the tariffs the latter intends to impose on steel and aluminum imports will “hurt us all in the long run.”
Lofven said that he supports the European Union’s efforts to remove obstacles to international trade, adding that it is “critically important” to adopt measures that favor free trade, not hinder it, adding that a “small” country like Sweden – an EU member – depends to a large extent on an “open” trade regime.
Trump, however, said that the EU has taken advantage of the US in trade matters, adding that if it raises “trade barriers” on the US to retaliate for heightened US tariffs, “then we put a big tax of 25 percent on their cars ... believe me they won’t be doing it very long.”