Trump, Moon talk North Korea policy during after dinner meeting at White House

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 10:34pm

US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart held talks on Thursday on how to halt North Korea’s nuclear drive, but remained at odds over whether to isolate or engage the Pyongyang regime.

Trump welcomed the newly-elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the White House for a formal dinner that preceded the heavier lifting that was to come later in the evening during talks on what to do about their ongoing standoff with the North.

“We’re going to have tremendous discussions tonight,” Trump said at the dinner, flanked by his wife Melania and by Moon, on his right. Sitting next to Moon at the elegant, flower bedecked table was his wife, Kim Jung-sook.

Members of Trump’s cabinet and Korean delegation were also sitting at the elegant dinner table, which ran the length of the room.

“I know you’ve been discussing with our people some of the complexities of North Korea and trade and other things, and we’ll be discussing them all as we progress and it could be very well late into the evening,” Trump said.

He later tweeted that the talks were “very good”, but did not go into too much detail.

Earlier on Thursday, Moon lobbied US leaders to back his policy of engagement with North Korea, as the Trump administration vowed to increase pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear programme.

The Trump administration has been trying to isolate the North Korean regime following a series of missile tests, including by persuading China – Pyongyang’s main diplomatic ally – to help bring Kim Jong-un into line.

The day commenced with Moon being received by congressional leaders.

Moon met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi in an ornate room in the US Capitol, with Ryan hailing “strong” bilateral ties but only briefly addressing security issues on the Korean peninsula before reporters were ushered out.

“We have shared concerns such as the threats posed to both of our nations from North Korea,” Ryan told Moon.

The South Korean president responded by saying that when it comes to humanitarian issues, “we must cross boundaries and all party lines and all try to unite together as one.”

Moon also met with US senators including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker.

Trump and Moon were to continue their talks – likely again dominated by North Korea – at the White House on Friday.

Washington, South Korea’s security guarantor, has more than 28,000 troops in the country to defend it from its communist neighbour, which has been intensifying missile tests – including five since Moon’s inauguration.

Pyongyang is seeking to develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that could reach the continental United States.

Trump has been pushing for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang to curb its nuclear ambitions and his administration has said military action was a possibility.

Also expected to be high on the agenda is a controversial US missile defence system that has been installed in South Korea to guard against missiles from the North. Though parts of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system are already in place, Moon suspended further deployment following a furious campaign of economic sanctions and diplomatic protests by Beijing.