WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump has responded to North Korea’s reported willingness to discuss denuclearization with the U.S., suggesting an opening for negotiations while still “ready to go hard in either direction.”
Trump’s tweet came after North Korean officials on Tuesday reportedly said they would agree to pause nuclear and missile tests if the U.S. would begin negotiating North Korea’s permanent abandonment of its nuclear weapons program, according to South Korean officials who met with the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.
The officials said North Korea and South Korea will hold their first summit in more than a decade in late April, the latest development in a recent thawing of tensions between the two countries.
Trump’s initial response to North Korea’s willingness to hold talks with the U.S. was a noncommittal “we’ll see what happens” tweet earlier Tuesday morning.
North Korea conducted multiple nuclear and missile tests last year, heightening instability in the region and world. Trump responded with threats and forceful rhetoric, mocking Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and inflaming tensions. Kim replied with his own threats, calling Trump a “dotard” and “mentally deranged.”
While North and South Korea have moved to defuse tensions, including a landmark agreement allowing North Korean athletes to compete at this year’s Winter Olympics, the U.S. has continued to ramp up pressure on North Korea.
After North Korea’s overtures to South Korea, Trump targeted the regime with new sanctions. Vice President Mike Pence accused North Korea of trying “to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics.”
Pence, attending the Olympics as the leader of the U.S. delegation, appeared to ignore Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong at the opening ceremony. He said he had been scheduled to meet with her later, but North Korea abruptly canceled the meeting after Pence condemned the regime.
Pence told The Washington Post at the conclusion of his Olympics trip that the U.S. would be open to talks with North Korea, but would continue to pursue what he called a “maximum pressure campaign.”