President Donald Trump declared that the US had run out of patience with North Korea over its nuclear drive Friday as he welcomed South Korea’s new leader Moon Jae-In to talks at the White House.
While Moon has been arguing for greater engagement with Pyongyang as the best way to put the brakes on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Trump made clear that he was in no mood to pursue diplomacy with a regime he accused of having no respect for human life.
And while Moon announced that Trump had accepted an offer to visit Seoul later this year, the leaders failed to map out any kind of joint strategy on how best to deal with the threat posed by the North Korean leadership.
“Together, we are facing the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea. The nuclear and ballistic missile programs of that regime require a determined response,” said Trump.
“The North Korean dictatorship has no regard for the safety and security of its people, for its neighbours and has no respect for human life.”
The Trump administration has been growing increasingly exasperated with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime which has staged a barrage of missile tests in recent months.
There was also deep anger in the United States after Otto Warmbier, an American student who was detained in North Korea on a tourist trip around 18 months ago, was returned home in a coma earlier this month. He died several days later.
Trump had been pinning his hopes on China — North Korea’s main diplomatic ally — to bring pressure to bear on Pyongyang but declared last week that their efforts had failed.
“The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed, many years it has failed. Frankly, that patience is over,” Trump said at a press briefing in the Rose Garden.
And while he avoided criticising his guest’s approach, Trump made clear he was in no mood to enter dialogue with North Korea but rather saw sanctions as the best way to proceed.
“The United States calls on other regional powers and all responsible nations to join us in implementing sanctions and demanding that the North Korean regime choose a better path and do it quickly and a different future for its long-suffering people,” he said.
Washington, South Korea’s security guarantor, has more than 28,000 troops in the country to defend it from its communist neighbour, which has been intensifying missile tests — including five since Moon’s inauguration.
– ‘Gravest Challenge’ –
Moon said there was no dispute between his government and Trump over the nature of the threat posed by North Korea.
“The gravest challenge confronting our two nations is the nuclear and missile threat posed by North Korea,” he said.
“President Trump and I decided to place a top priority on addressing this issue, and coordinate closely on relevant policies.
“To this end, we will employ both sanctions and dialogue in a phased and comprehensive approach … to seek a fundamental resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem.”
Moon has used his first foreign trip to lobby the Trump administration and congressional leaders to back his policy of engagement with the North.
Ahead of his arrival, Moon argued that Seoul and Washington must offer concessions to Pyongyang if it complies with demands for a nuclear freeze — as a gateway to dialogue, and to eventual dismantlement of its nuclear program.
But the Trump administration’s hardening stance was illustrated on Thursday when it slapped sanctions on a Chinese bank linked to North Korea — drawing an angry response from Beijing.
Pyongyang is seeking to develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that could reach the continental United States.
A senior US administration official stressed ahead of the talks that Washington and Seoul “share precisely the same goal, which is the complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.”