SEOUL (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump told his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae In on Wednesday (Jan 10) he is open to talking with North Korea, the South's presidential office said, after the two leaders spoke by telephone.
A day after North and South Korea held their first talks in more than two years, Trump said there would be no military action while talks were ongoing, the Blue House said in a statement after the phone call.
"Both heads of state forecast the current inter-Korean talks could naturally lead to talks between the United States and North Korea for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and agreed to negotiate closely on the progression of inter-Korean talks," the statement said.
"President Trump said the United States is open to talks should North Korea want them, as long as the circumstances and timing are right."
The South Korean statement also quoted Trump as saying that an article in the Wall Street Journal newspaper saying that he was contemplating a military strike against North Korea was"completely wrong".
"He went on to say that there will be no military action as long as talks between the two Koreas are ongoing," it said.
“Who knows where it leads?” Trump told reporters at the White House after his call with Moon to discuss Tuesday’s North-South talks.
He said Moon told him the talks went well, and added: “Hopefully it will lead to success for the world, not just for our country, but for the world. And we’ll be seeing over the next number of weeks and months what happens.”
Trump also said he would send Vice-President Mike Pence to head the US delegation to the Pyeongchang games to be held in South Korea next month.
There was no immediate comment from the White House on the call, although Washington welcomed Tuesday's talks as a first step towards solving the crisis over North Korea's program to develop nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States. Trump said on Saturday he would be willing to speak to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
An unsourced article in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday said US officials were quietly debating whether it was possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean peninsula.
The Trump administration has said it prefers a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but that all options are on the table, including military ones. Washington insists that any future talks should be aimed at North Korea giving up it nuclear weapons, something Pyongyang rejects.
Earlier, Moon credited Trump for helping to spark the inter-Korean talks, which led to an agreement on North Korea attending the Olympics, and warned that Pyongyang would face stronger sanctions if "provocations" continued.
Lee Woo Young, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said it was wise of Moon to praise Trump.
“By doing that, he can help the US build logic for moving towards negotiations,” he said.
The United States and Canada are due to host a conference of about 20 foreign ministers next week in Vancouver to discuss North Korea, without the participation of China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally and biggest trade partner.
The State Department said the talks, which will involve countries that supported South Korea in the Korean War, would look at ways both to increase the US-led pressure campaign on North Korea and take diplomatic efforts forward.
“The pressure campaign is intended to lead to credible negotiations on denuclearization,” a spokesman said.
China said it was opposed to the meeting as it would not help reduce tensions.