(Recasts with comments from Trump, adds White House, Pence
quotes, byline, WASHINGTON dateline)
* Trump says would meet N.Korean leader under right
* White House says conditions 'not there right now'
* North Korea suggests it will continue nuclear tests
* Pyongyang says it will bolster force "to the maximum"
* Tension high with U.S. aircraft carrier group in the
By Ayesha Rascoe and Soyoung Kim
WASHINGTON/SEOUL, May 1 U.S. President Donald
Trump on Monday opened the door to meeting North Korea's Kim
Jong Un, saying he would be honored 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 honored 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 program.
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 denuclearization 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
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
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.
Trump warned in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that a
"major, major conflict" with North Korea was possible
, while China said last week the situation on the
Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control.
In a show of force, the United States has sent the
nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters
off the Korean peninsula to join drills with South Korea to
counter a series of threats of destruction from North Korea,
formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
"Now that the U.S. is kicking up the overall racket for
sanctions and pressure against the DPRK, pursuant to its new
DPRK policy called 'maximum pressure and engagement', the DPRK
will speed up at the maximum pace the measure for bolstering its
nuclear deterrence," a spokesman for North Korea's foreign
ministry said in a statement carried by its official KCNA news
North Korea's "measures for bolstering the nuclear force to
the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at
any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership," the
Reclusive North Korea has carried out five nuclear tests and
a series of missile tests in defiance of U.N. Security Council
and unilateral resolutions. It has been conducting tests at an
unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in
developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.
It test-launched a missile on Saturday which Washington and
Seoul said was unsuccessful but which nevertheless drew
widespread international condemnation.
TIME FOR TALKS 'OVER'
Trump has stepped up his outreach to allies in Asia over the
weekend to discuss the North Korean threat and make sure all are
"on the same page" if action is needed, a top White House
As part of that effort, he also reached out to Philippines
President Rodrigo Duterte and invited him to meet at the White
House, a move human rights organizations condemned.
Washington is also seeking more help from China, the North's
only major ally, to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile
development. Unlike the United States, Beijing has pushed for
talks first and action later on North Korea.
"The United States has ... negotiated, had talks, waited
patiently. All the while we've seen the regime in North Korea
continue its headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons, and a
ballistic missile program. And the president said that's over,"
Pence told CBS News in an interview.
Separately, South Korea said the United States had
reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying the Terminal
High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system to
counter the North Korean threat, days after Trump said Seoul
should pay for the $1 billion battery.
In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump's national security
adviser, H.R. McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart,
Kim Kwan-jin, that the U.S. alliance with South Korea was its
top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South's
presidential office said.
The THAAD deployment has drawn protests from China, which
says the powerful radar that can penetrate its territory will
undermine regional security, and from residents of the area in
which it is being deployed, worried they will be a target for
North Korean missiles.
The THAAD system in South Korea has reached an initial
operating capability to defend against North Korean missiles,
U.S. officials said on Monday. It would not be fully operational
for some months, however, one of them cautioned.
(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington;
Writing by Nick Macfie, Soyoung Kim and Susan Heavey; Editing by
Robert Birsel and James Dalgleish)