SEOUL -- During his first visit to South Korea, President Donald Trump suggested on Tuesday that North Korea enter into talks over scrapping its nuclear and missile programs, apparently keeping the door open for dialogue with Pyongyang after months of tough talk on both sides.
The U.S. president called on China and Russia to play roles in ending the Kim Jong Un regime's nuclear weapons program, urging both countries to cease trade and business with the belligerent communist nation. Trump is due in Beijing on Wednesday following his two-day visit to South Korea.
"I really believe that it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal for the people of North Korea and people of the world," said Trump in a press conference after being received by his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, at the Blue House.
Trump made it clear that the U.S. is prepared to deploy its unmatched military capabilities against North Korea if necessary to defend itself and its allies. He played up the U.S. alliance with South Korea, vowing to help defend it from threats from the north.
The president's remarks come after a marked recent rise in military tensions on the Korean peninsula that have seen Trump exchange vituperative words with Kim. North Korea conducted its sixth and largest underground nuclear test in September, and has launched ballistic missiles over the Sea of Japan, the Pacific, and northern Japan, and threatened attacks on Guam and the U.S. mainland.
Trump made it clear that trade was another reason for his visit to Seoul, and thanked Moon for agreeing to buy military equipment worth "billions of dollars." South Korea is a major purchaser of U.S. armaments, including jet fighters, and spends some $5 billion each year. Even so, the president mentioned an overall trade deficit favoring South Korea that he would like to see resolved. The two allies are currently revising a free trade agreement that Trump has called unfair.
Before arriving at the Blue House, Trump visited Camp Humphreys in the western port city of Pyeongtaek where U.S. forces are stationed. Along with President Moon, he had lunch with soldiers on the base, and thanked them for their service.
Later on Monday night, Moon hosted a state dinner with Korean cuisine and cultural events. Trump is due to address the National Assembly on Wednesday.
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