US President Donald Trump is now saying he is open to talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who he has referred to as “little rocket man,” in a drastic shift from his latest exchange with him, comparing the size of a “nuclear button” in his possession.
Trump, who harshly censured his top diplomat last year for expressing willingness to hold negotiations with the nuclear-armed North, told reporters at Camp David on Saturday that some dialogue or direct conversation with Kim would be a possibility.
"Sure, I always believe in talking," Trump stated. "Absolutely I would do that, I wouldn't have a problem with that at all."
The remarks came amid reports that US intelligence agencies have grossly underestimated North Korea's technological capabilities to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles able to strike American mainland in their assessments in recent years.
Trump, however, further insisted that any talks would come with conditions, without elaborating on them.
The US president also underlined that Kim "knows I'm not messing around. I'm not messing around, not even a little bit, not even 1 percent. He understands that."
During a question-and-answer session with reporters following meeting with Republican lawmakers and his cabinet members regarding the administration’s 2018 legislative agenda, Trump also expressed optimism about progress in the upcoming talks between the two Koreas, saying: "Right now, they're talking Olympics. It's a start, it's a big start."
The first formal talks between North and South in more than two years are set to take place in a border town on Tuesday as the rivals try to find ways to cooperate on the Winter Olympics in the South and to improve their ties.
Assessing next week's talks, Trump was quoted in the report as saying, "If something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity. That would be a great thing for the world."
The American president further asserted that he had spoken with South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, who "thanks me very much for my tough stance."
"You have to have a certain attitude and you have to be prepared to do certain things and I'm totally prepared to do that," Trump added, claiming that his tough words have helped persuade the North to initiate talks with the South.
The development came as the US military agreed to delay yet another joint war games with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis insisting that the move was merely a practical necessity to accommodate the games and not a political gesture.
The recent exchanges between Trump and Kim regarding their nuclear arsenals made news headlines across the globe. It began with Kim’s New Year’s address, insisting that he has a "nuclear button" on his office desk and warning that "the entire territory of the US is within the range of our nuclear strike."
Trump quickly reacted contemptuously, saying: "Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"