SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump told his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on Wednesday he is open to talking with North Korea, the South’s presidential office said after the two leaders spoke by telephone.
A day after North and South Korea held their first talks in more than two years, Trump said there would be no military action while talks were ongoing, the Blue House said in a statement after the phone call.
“Both heads of state forecast the current inter-Korean talks could naturally lead to talks between the United States and North Korea for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and agreed to negotiate closely on the progression of inter-Korean talks,” the statement said.
“President Trump said the United States is open to talks should North Korea want them, as long as the circumstances and timing are right.”
The South Korean statement also quoted Trump as saying that an article in the Wall Street Journal newspaper saying that he was contemplating a military strike against North Korea was “completely wrong.”
“He went on to say that there will be no military action as long as talks between the two Koreas are ongoing,” it said.
Trump also said he would send Vice President Mike Pence to head the U.S. delegation to the Pyeongchang games to be held in South Korea next month.
There was no immediate comment from the White House on the call, although Washington welcomed Tuesday’s talks as a first step towards solving the crisis over North Korea’s programme to develop nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States. Trump said on Saturday he would be willing to speak to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
An unsourced article in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday said U.S. officials were quietly debating whether it was possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean peninsula.
The Trump administration has said it prefers a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but that all options are on the table, including military ones. Washington insists that any future talks should be aimed at North Korea giving up it nuclear weapons, something Pyongyang rejects.
Earlier, Moon credited Trump for helping to spark the inter-Korean talks, which led to an agreement on North Korea attending the Olympics, and warned that Pyongyang would face stronger sanctions if “provocations” continued.
Reporting by Christine Kim and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Jeffrey Benkoe