North Korea sanctions must stay: Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that a third summit with North Korea 'could happen' with the North's leader, Kim Jong Un.
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump (her back facing camera) meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Ms Kim Jung-sook, in the Oval Office at the White House on Thursday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump (her back facing camera) meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Ms Kim Jung-sook, in the Oval Office at the White House on Thursday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Not right time yet to resume North-South projects, but US leader open to smaller deals

US President Donald Trump has rejected the idea of easing sanctions on North Korea to move denuclearisation talks along, adding that now is not the right time for Seoul and Pyongyang to resume joint projects such as the Kaesong industrial complex.

Mr Trump, however, said he could be open to "various smaller deals" to achieve the denuclearisation of North Korea in incremental steps, which would be a departure from his all-or-nothing approach so far.

"There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen," he said on Thursday in remarks before his meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, with whom he said he would discuss "certain humanitarian things" for North Korea.

"But at this moment, we're talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons," Mr Trump said.

Mr Moon was on a whirlwind 24-hour visit to Washington in the hope of encouraging the United States and North Korea to continue their talks, following the abrupt end of the Hanoi summit between Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February.

The complete denuclearisation of North Korea remains the ultimate goal of negotiations, said both presidents, with Mr Moon stressing that South Korea was "absolutely on the same page" as the US on the issue.

Mr Moon, who played a key role in getting both leaders to the negotiating table, said the Hanoi summit "was not a source of disappointment, but part of a bigger process that will lead to a bigger agreement".

 
 
 
 

"The important task that I face right now is to maintain the momentum of dialogue," he said through a translator.

Mr Trump said a third summit between him and Mr Kim - with whom he said he had a "very, very good" relationship - could happen. A three-way summit that includes Mr Moon was also possible.

Mr Trump said he and Mr Moon would also discuss trade and military issues, including Seoul's purchase of US military equipment.

Some 28,500 American troops are stationed on South Korean soil.

A recent wrinkle in their relationship - the Trump administration's unhappiness with the portion of the bill Seoul was footing for the US troop presence - was temporarily put to rest with the signing of a one-year cost-sharing deal in February.

South Korea is also one of America's key trading partners. They recently renegotiated their free trade agreement, which will limit Seoul's steel exports to the US but exempt it from the Trump administration's 25 per cent tariffs on steel.

Mr Moon, who arrived on Wednesday evening, also joined Mr Trump for a working lunch with other top US and South Korean officials. Before meeting Mr Trump, he met Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Mr Moon emphasised the importance of maintaining dialogue between the US and North Korea to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, and both top officials assured him that the US will continue its dialogue with Pyongyang, said South Korea's Blue House.

China, North Korea's main ally, yesterday said it wanted the parties to push for dialogue. "We see President Trump's willingness to keep talking and not add sanctions as a positive signal," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

But Mr Trump stressed that denuclearisation of North Korea is a long-term process. "If it goes fast, it's not going to be the proper deal."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2019, with the headline 'N. Korea sanctions must stay: Trump'. Print Edition | Subscribe