South Korea’s leader gave President Trump props on Wednesday, saying he deserves “big credit” for pressuring North Korea to return to the negotiating table after a two-year absence.
“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks, I want to show my gratitude,” President Moon Jae In said during a news conference, Reuters reported. “It could be a resulting work of the US-led sanctions and pressure.”
The Koreas resumed discussions Tuesday for the first time since December 2015 on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone and agreed to try to resolve rising tensions on the peninsula — even though Pyongyang declared its nuclear weapons program off the table.
North Korean President Kim Jong Un raised the possibility of renewed talks during a New Year’s Day speech and the two countries began communicating through a cross-border channel last Wednesday.
Trump, who has engaged Kim in a war of words during the first year of his presidency, mocking him as “Little Rocket Man” and asserting that he had a “bigger” nuclear button than the despot, took credit last week for his firm handling of the crisis.
“With all of the failed ‘experts ‘ weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!,” the president wrote on Twitter last Thursday.
Moon also played down concerns in Washington that Pyongyang was trying to isolate the United States by reaching out to South Korea and said he still sees eye to eye with the Trump administration over the need for North Korea to abandon its weapons programs.
“This initial round of talks is for the improvement of relations between North and South Korea. Our task going forward is to draw North Korea to talks aimed at the denuclearization of the North,” Moon said. “(It is) our basic stance that will never be given up.”
He said he would be open to meeting with Kim at any time to improve ties, but that the “purpose of it shouldn’t be talks for the sake of talks.”
Despite being under punishing sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Nations, North Korea removed any discussion of its nuclear arms from being included in further negotiations, saying the weapons aren’t aimed at their “brethren” but at America.
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper echoed that sentiment.
“If the North and South abandon external forces and cooperate together, we will be able to fully solve all problems to match our people’s needs and our joint prosperity,” it said.
The Trump administration welcomed the talks as a first step toward ending the nuclear crisis on the peninsula.