Wednesday 21 March 2018

Trump urges North Korea to cut a 'deal'

US president aims to get China's help on visit to Beijing

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania arrive in Seoul, South Korea Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania arrive in Seoul, South Korea Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Neil Connor, Nicola Smith, and Ben Riley-Smith

Donald Trump, the US president, has called on North Korea to come to the negotiating table and "make a deal" on its nuclear programme in a significant softening of tone.

Speaking in South Korea during his Asia tour, Mr Trump said he "hopes to God" that he never has to use military force against the regime.

Click here to view full-size graphic
Click here to view full-size graphic

Mr Trump appeared to predict the stand-off could be solved though talks, saying: "Ultimately it will all work out ... It always works out." It marks a stark difference from Mr Trump's previous remarks, when he mocked the idea North Korea could be dealt with diplomatically and promised "fire and fury" as tensions escalated.

His latest comments were made alongside Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president who was elected in May on a platform of more engagement with the North.

Mr Trump has also issued a warning to China ahead of his visit today, pledging "very, very strong action" against countries who had been treating America "unfairly".

His visit to Seoul, the South Korean capital, came at a time of heightened tension over North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's drive towards nuclear weapons.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Photo: KCNA via Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Photo: KCNA via Reuters

Since taking office 10 months ago, Mr Trump has dubbed Mr Kim "Little Rocket Man" and said military action remains on the table to solve the dispute.

But Mr Trump toned down his rhetoric during a joint press conference with Mr Moon, expressing hope the crisis can be solved through diplomatic means. "It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and for the world," Mr Trump said.

On using the US military, he said: "We have many things happening that we hope... in fact I'll go a step further, we hope to God we never have to use." And on the likelihood of success, Mr Trump said: "I think we're going to have lots of good answers for you over a period of time, and ultimately it will all work out ... It always works out. It has to work out!"

The US president will arrive in Beijing today for the trickiest part of his trip and is expected to urge China to do more on North Korea.

The country has traditionally been the North's only diplomatic ally and a key trading partner. It suspended coal imports and enforced UN sanctions earlier this year after US pressure, but continues to supply most of its energy. "China's trying very hard to solve the problem with North Korea," Mr Trump said. "If we get China, if we get Russia ... we think that things will happen and they could happen very quickly."

Mr Trump has taken a tough stance on China's trade protectionism ahead of his visit, but there are signs of pushback from the Chinese government.

An editorial in 'China Daily', the state-run newspaper said: "Instead of criticising his hosts, Trump should seek to promote cooperation." The commentary, which is titled 'Cooperation would benefit US more than blame game', said Mr Trump's claim that the US was at a disadvantage because of a huge trade imbalance between the two counties was "misleading".

It read: "Trump's lambasting of the US' trade partners and his vows that under his administration the theft of American prosperity will end play well with the crowd ... and no doubt they will serve to distract attention from his troubles at home. But they do nothing to help revitalise the US economy."

Mr Trump was served a fermented soy sauce during his South Korea trip which was 360 years old - a century older than America itself. The sauce accompanied a beef rib dish served in a four-course meal at the presidential Blue House in honour of Mr Trump's visit.

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