U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday opened the door to meeting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, saying he would be honoured to meet the young leader under the right circumstances, even as Pyongyang suggested it will continue its nuclear weapons tests.
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honoured to do it,” Trump told Bloomberg News in an interview. “Under the right circumstances I would meet with him,” he added.
Trump did not say what conditions would need to be met for any such meeting to occur or when it could happen, but the White House later said North Korea would need to clear many conditions before a meeting could be contemplated. “Clearly conditions are not there right now,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
“I don’t see this happening anytime soon,” Spicer added.
Trump, who took office in January, had said during his presidential campaign he would be willing to meet with Kim.
His administration has said since that North Korea must agree to abandon its nuclear programme.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the U.N. Security Council that Washington would not negotiate with North Korea. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, earlier on Monday, said Trump had made clear “that the era of strategic patience is over.”
Later on Monday, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said in a statement: “The United States remains open to credible talks on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula; however conditions must change before there is any scope for talks to resume,” adding North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons programme.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been high for weeks driven by fears the North might conduct a long-range missile test, or its sixth nuclear test, around the time of the April 15 anniversary of its state founder’s birth.
Early on Monday, North Korea said it will bolster its nuclear force “to the maximum” in a “consecutive and successive way at any moment” in the face of what it calls U.S. aggression and hysteria.
North Korea, technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, regularly threatens to destroy the United States, Japan and South Korea and has said it will pursue its nuclear and missile programmes to counter perceived U.S. aggression.