U.S. President Donald Trump in his first visit to Seoul said Tuesday there was progress towards the North Korea nuclear crisis and in efforts to bring Pyongyang to negotiating table.
“Many things are happening,” he said referring to the positioning of U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups and nuclear submarines near the Korean Peninsula, “which we hope we will never, never have to use.”
“They (North Koreans) understand we have unparalleled strength. With that being said, I really believe it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table to make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and people of the world. Yes, there are certain movements,” he said during a joint press conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in after a tete-a-tete and expanded summit talks. He did not elaborate on the sudden hopeful tone.
His rhetoric significantly changed in Seoul as in the past he had been critical of Seoul’s engaging policy towards Pyongyang and snapped that this was no time for diplomatic talk after North Korea carried out its fifth nuclear test and launched long-range missiles capable of reaching Guam.
Unlike his first summit talk with Moon in Washington where he bluntly talked about imbalance in bilateral trade and unfairness in a free trade deal between the two countries, he expressed appreciation for the Seoul government in its efforts on working on a “much better deal.”
There were also no “fiery” comments on North Korea.
“President Trump and I reconfirmed that we will enforce maximum pressure and response with resolution until the North Korean nuclear crisis is solved and lasting regional peace is ensured,” Moon said.
For the goal, Seoul agreed to beef up self and joint capabilities by purchasing U.S surveillance equipment and other arms, removing the cap on the payload of Korean ballistic missiles, and expanding rotational presence of U.S. strategic assets nearby the peninsula, Moon said.
Trump expressed he was pleased with Seoul’s decision to buy “billions of dollars” in U.S. military equipments that can help trade and U.S. jobs.
“I am very honored to have received the highest-level of reception,” said Trump elevated by the extraordinary red-carpet treatment that included a military honor guard and a 21-gun salute at the airport and a separate welcome ceremony at the Blue House in the first state invitation given to U.S. leader in a quarter of a century.
The two have met three times - first in Washington after Moon took office in May and later in New York for tripartite talks including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in September.
President George H.W. Bush was the last American president to come to Seoul on a state visit in 1992. Since then U.S. presidents visited the country on less ceremonious “official” or “working” level.
Trump who chose South Korea as the second destination of his Asian trip but stays just 24 hours in contrast to a three-day visit to Japan was surprisingly greeted by Moon at Camp Humphreys, the newest and largest U.S. military base in the country where Trump went straight upon landing at the Osan Air Base outside Seoul. It is the first time a Korean president greeted a visiting foreign leader outside the presidential office.
The two shared a lunch amongst Korean and U.S. military officials as the first leaders of the two long-time allies to be at one U.S. military base at the same time in show of force towards North Korea which has upped rhetorical saber-rattling during Trump’s Asian tour.
Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have been exchanging fiery war talks with the outspoken U.S. president calling Kim as a “rocket man on a suicide mission” and threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea in an address to the UN General Assembly.
After a one-on-one meeting for about 20 minutes, Moon and Trump held an-hour-long expanded talks with cabinet members discussing North Korea, free trade agreement and other economic issues, and security matters.
The Blue House arranged a gala befitting the first state banquet in 25 years mixed with Korea’s traditional and modern pop extravaganza and largest-ever 120 guests with big names from political, business, and cultural sector.
Trump will make an address to the National Assembly on Wednesday before leaving for China. The last U.S. president to be on the Korean legislative podium was Bill Clinton in 1993.
By Kang Gye-man
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]