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North Korea: Trump open to talks but will apply ‘maximum pressure’

  • President wants talks ‘at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances
  • White House confirms details of phone call with South Korean leader

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “North Korea: Trump promises ‘peace through strength’ and denies strike plan” was written by Julian Borger in Washington Justin McCurry in Tokyo, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th January 2018 22.00 UTC

Donald Trump has promised “peace through strength” on the Korean peninsula, reportedly telling his South Korean counterpart that no US military action against Pyongyang is being contemplated while diplomacy is under way.

In a phone call with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, on Wednesday, Trump expressed his openness to talks with North Korea “at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances” according to a short White House account of the meeting, which gave no further details. The Trump administration has previously sent mixed signals on its preconditions before beginning a dialogue with the regime.

Speaking at the White House, Trump shrugged off reports in the press suggesting his administration was considering punitive air strikes against North Korea to show it is serious about curbing Pyongyang’s development of nuclear and missile capabilities.

Stressing his commitment to military spending, Trump said: “We are going to have peace through strength.”

He added: “I think we’re going to have a long period of peace. I hope we do. We have certainly problems with North Korea but a lot of good talks are going on right now – a lot of good energy. I like it very much .”

According to a South Korean government spokesman, Trump promised Moon there would be no military action “of any kind” while the dialogue continued between the two Koreas. That dialogue restarted on Tuesday, after a break of two years, in talks in the border village of Panmunjoin, which resulted in North Korean regime agreeing to send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Moon briefed Trump on the Panmunjoin talks and went out of his way to thank Trump for his policy of imposing “maximum pressure” on North Korea.

“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks, and I want to show my gratitude,” he told reporters in Seoul. “It could be the result of US-led sanctions and pressure.”

In his version of his conversation with Moon, Trump also emphasised his owned role in creating conditions for the talks to occur.

“He’s very thankful for what we’ve done. It was so reported today that … without our attitude, that would have never happened,” Trump told reporters. “Who knows where it leads. 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.”

In their telephone conversation on Wednesday, Trump also told Moon that vice-president Mike Pence would lead the US delegation to the Olympic Games, the White House said.

En route to South Korea, Pence will also travel to Alaska to review ballistic missile defense facilities, the White House said.

Moon’s praise for Trump is being seen as an attempt to ease US concerns that the recent thaw in cross-border ties could drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.

On Tuesday, North Korea agreed to send a large delegation to the Games, which open in Pyeongchang on 9 February. The two sides also agreed to hold military talks in an attempt to prevent an accidental conflict on the peninsula.

While Moon has been more open to the idea of engagement than either of his two conservative predecessors, he said Seoul and Washington shared a common aim: the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

“This initial round of talks is for the improvement of relations between North and South Korea,” he said. “Our task going forward is to draw North Korea to talks aimed at the denuclearisation of the North. That is our basic stance, and that will never be given up.”

He added: “We cannot say talks are the sole answer. If North Korea engages in provocations again or does not show sincerity in resolving this issue, the international community will continue applying strong pressure and sanctions.”

Moon said he was open to meeting his counterpart, Kim Jong-un, but he would not engage in “talks for the sake of talks”.

“To hold a summit, the right conditions must be created and certain outcomes must be guaranteed,” he said.

Lee Woo-young, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Moon had been right to praise Trump.

“By doing that, he can help the US build logic for moving toward negotiations and turning around the state of affairs in the future, so when they were ready to talk to the North, they can say the North came out of isolation because the sanctions were effective,” he said.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Israel says it has conducted ‘wide-ranging’ air strikes against Hamas

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Israeli aircraft and tanks hit targets across the Gaza Strip Friday after shots were fired at troops on the border, the army said, with Hamas reporting three members of its military wing killed.

An army statement said shots were fired at troops during renewed protests along the Gaza-Israel frontier and “in response, (Israeli) aircraft and tanks targeted military targets throughout the Gaza Strip.”

The IDF says its warplanes have carried out ‘wide-ranging’ air strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, in response to the earlier gunfire.

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US Secretary of State Pompeo demands “full enforcement of sanctions” on North Korea

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told United Nations Security Council envoys on Friday that there needs to be “concrete actions” by North Korea before an easing of sanctions on Pyongyang can be discussed, said Dutch U.N. Ambassador Karel van Oosterom.

“The secretary made very clear we need concrete deeds, concrete actions and only then we can start the discussion,” van Oosterom told reporters after Pompeo informally briefed envoys from the 15-member council, Japan and South Korea behind closed doors at the South Korea U.N. mission.

(New York Times)

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Michael Cohen Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Payment to Playboy Model

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 President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them.

The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret. And it highlights the potential legal and political danger that Mr. Cohen represents to Mr. Trump. Once the keeper of many of Mr. Trump’s secrets, Mr. Cohen is now seen as increasingly willing to consider cooperating with prosecutors.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed the payments with Mr. Cohen on the tape but said the payment was ultimately never made. He said the recording was less than two minutes and demonstrated that the president had done nothing wrong.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had directed Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, write a check, rather than sending cash, so it could be properly documented.

“In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Giuliani.

Mr. Cohen’s lawyers discovered the recording as part of their review of the seized materials and shared it with Mr. Trump’s lawyers, according to three people briefed on the matter.

“We have nothing to say on this matter,” Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, said when asked about the tape.

(New York Times)

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