After declaring to North Korea that he would use the “full range of our unmatched military capabilities” to defend the United States, President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged the Kim government to come to the negotiating table and end the tense standoff over its nuclear arms program.
Speaking just 120 miles from the North Korean capital, Trump used a joint news conference in Seoul with his South Korean counterpart to label North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs a “worldwide threat that requires worldwide action.”
“We cannot allow North Korea to threaten all that we have built,” he said of the U.S.-South Korean alliance. “It's time to act with urgency and with great determination.”
Trump flashed his usual bravado when talking about the North, reminding Kim Jong-un that the United States possesses what Trump described as unrivaled military power.
“I think we're showing great strength. I think they understand we have unparalleled strength,” Trump said of the Kim government. “There has never been strength like it.”
The U.S. commander in chief went out of his way while answering a reporter’s question to point out publicly that he deployed three “of the largest aircraft carriers in the world” to the region to combat the North’s recent nuclear and missile test launches. He also noted that “we have a nuclear submarine also positioned.”
“The United States stands prepared to defend itself and its allies using the full range of our unmatched military capabilities, if need be,” Trump said.
But Trump also used his first extended remarks as president while standing on Korean soil to call North Korean officials to the negotiating table, saying this of the military might he mentioned: “We hope to God we never have to use.”
The U.S. president, in the midst of a 12-day swing through five Asian countries, called on Pyongyang to enter into multi-country talks about its nuclear arms and long-range missile programs.
“I really believe that it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and to make a deal that’s good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world,” Trump said during the news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “I do see certain movement, yes.”
Trump declined to comment when asked if he would agree to direct talks with the North. But, notably, he did not rule out U.S.-North Korean negotiations that he in the past has said would not work. He also praised China for pressuring North Korea, but also called on Beijing and Russia to do more to help resolve the standoff.
He and Moon announced a number of steps their governments are taking to combat the North’s aggressive antics.
South Korea has agreed to ramp up its purchase of U.S.-made military and other items. The move is part of his goal of wiping out the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea, Trump said, describing it as an economic win for America and a security win for the South.
“And South Korea will be ordering billions of dollars of that equipment, which, frankly, for them makes a lot of sense,” he said. “And for us, it means jobs. It means reducing our trade deficit with South Korea.”
South Korea and the United States have agreed to waive the payload limit on ROK missiles in the face of aggression from North Korea, Moon announced. He also said he and Trump have finalized an agreement to “expand rotational deployment of U.S. strategic assets in and around Korean Peninsula.”
While those military moves are aimed at combating an aggressive North, Moon echoed Trump’s stick-and-carrot message, saying the two leaders are willing to allow the North a “bright future.” Like Trump, Moon invited the Kim government to “come to the table for dialogue on its own.”
Trump for the second consecutive was asked about the mass shooting on Sunday that left 26 dead in a small Texas town near San Antonio. And for the second straight day, Trump made clear he opposes tighter gun access legislation in the wake of the Texas church massacre.
The GOP president endorsed the good-guy-with-a-gun concept espoused by Second Amendment enthusiasts, saying stricter laws might have prevented “that very brave person who happened to have a gun or a rifle in his truck” from being able to “go out and shoot him (the Texas gunman), and hit him and neutralize him.”
Had that not happened, he said, “instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead.” (There were not “hundreds” more inside the small-town church, according to reports.)
Trump’s bottom line, however, is that new gun laws are “not going to help.”