President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said he hoped a visit by U.S President Donald Trump would be a turning point in efforts to defuse tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme as the two leaders met in Seoul on Tuesday.
The state visit in the South Korean capital was billed as an opportunity for Trump and Moon to present a united front, despite differences over how to confront North Korea’s nuclear threat, as well as Trump’s complaints over the two countries’ trade agreements.
Besides vowing to prevent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from developing nuclear weapons and missiles that can effectively strike the mainland U.S., Trump has also threatened to pull out of a free trade pact between the two countries.
The White House says Trump’s trip is intended to demonstrate U.S. resolve over his hardline approach to the North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
Many in the region, however, fear further bellicose presidential rhetoric could increase the potential for a devastating military conflict on the Korean peninsula.
Meeting with military commanders about the North Korea issue, Trump told reporters: ”Ultimately it will all work out, it always works out, it has to work out”.
He did not elaborate.
Trump praised president Moon, hailing him for “great cooperation,” inspite of differences over how to confront North Korea and over a trade pact between the United States and South Korea.
When the two leaders later held formal talks after an elaborate welcoming ceremony outside the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Moon told Trump he hoped his visit would relieve some of South Koreans’ anxiety over North Korea and serve as a “turning point in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue”.
Pyongyang’s recent nuclear and missile tests in defiance of UN resolutions and an exchange of insults between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have raised the stakes in the most critical international challenge of Trump’s presidency.
Three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups will exercise together in the Western Pacific in the coming days in a show of force rarely seen in the region, U.S. officials said.
On the second leg of his five-nation trip, Trump toured the sprawling Camp Humphreys garrison, which lies about 100 km from the border with reclusive North Korea.
Trump was greeted with applause and a few cheers as he and president Moon entered the mess hall at lunch hour.
Trump is seeking to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang following his visit to Tokyo, where he declared that Japan would shoot North Korean missiles “out of the sky” if it bought the U.S. weaponry needed to do so.
He has criticised Moon over his support for diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang, something Trump once called “appeasement”, and has threatened to pull out of a free trade pact between the two countries.
“Hopefully that will start working out, and working out so that we create a lot of jobs in the United States which is one of the reasons that I‘m here,” Trump told reporters, referring to trade issues between the two countries.
Several hundred supporters and protesters lined the streets of downtown Seoul as Trump’s motorcade passed by, waving flags and posters, with some saying, “No Trump, No War, Yes Peace,” while others cheered, “Trump! Trump!”
Trump will deliver a speech on Wednesday to South Korea’s National Assembly expected to focus heavily on his North Korea policy, which has stressed sanctions and military pressure instead of diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang.