US President Donald Trump has said he is willing to negotiate directly with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over his country’s nuclear weapons program but expressed doubts the crisis could be resolved “in a peaceful way.”
“I’d sit down, but I’m not sure that sitting down will solve the problem,” Trump said in a White House interview with Reuters on Wednesday.
He noted that past negotiations with the North Koreans by his predecessors, former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, had failed to contain North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Fresh off a White House doctor declaring his health excellent, Trump suggested he had the mental strength to solve it.
“I guess they all realized they’re going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests,” he said.
Trump declined to comment when asked whether he had spoken with Kim, with whom he has exchanged public insults and threats and even once denounced him as a “little rocket man.”
Trump said he hoped the face-off with North Korea could be resolved “in a peaceful way, but it’s very possible that it can’t.”
'Russia undermining North Korea sanctions'
Elsewhere in his remarks, Trump accused Russia of helping North Korea to evade international sanctions.
“Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump said. “What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”
Both China and Russia last year voted at the United Nations Security Council in favor of the United States-led sanctions against North Korea.
According to US officials, Russia quietly boosted economic support for North Korea last year, and last month Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said that Moscow was not ready to sign up to new sanctions that would strangle the country economically.
China and Russia have asked for more time to consider a US proposal to blacklist 10 ships for transporting banned items from North Korea, according to some diplomats.
Meanwhile, Moscow dismissed Trump's allegation as absolutely groundless, the Interfax news agency reported on Thursday citing an unnamed source at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened North Korea with a military response unless it abandons its nuclear weapons program.
The Trump administration does seek a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff, Tillerson said, but noted that Pyongyang has failed so far to show itself to be a "credible negotiating partner."
Tillerson said North Korea has been making significant advances in its nuclear weapons using the thermonuclear test and progress in its intercontinental missile systems.
However, he refused to comment on whether the White House is contemplating limited military action against Pyongyang amid reports that some in the administration back military action to give the North a "bloody nose."
This comes as the US has moved more warships and aircraft to the Korean Peninsula over the past days, expanding its military presence there as South Korea prepares to host North Korean athletes in Winter Olympics next month.