Trump, who has led a global drive to pressure North Korea through sanctions to give up development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States, earlier held back judgement on Pyongyang’s offer to talk, saying on Twitter
“Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. “Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not – we will see!”
Trump has frequently derided Kim as “rocket man.” The U.S. president said sanctions and other pressures were starting to have a big impact on North Korea.
Kim and Trump have exchanged fiery barbs in the last year and the U.S. president has warned that the United States would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States, South Korea and Japan and tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile in November, which it said was capable of delivering a warhead anywhere in the United States.
South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said the offer for high-level talks next Tuesday had been discussed with the United States. Nauert said she was not aware if the matter had been discussed in advance of the South Korean response.
Cho suggested the talks be held at the border village of Panmunjom and said they should be focussed on North Korea’s participation at the Olympics, but other issues would likely arise, including the denuclearisation of North Korea.
“I repeat: The government is open to talking with North Korea, regardless of time, location and form,” Cho said.
Should the talks be held, it would be the first such dialogue since a vice-ministerial meeting in December 2015
South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed Kim’s New Year address and asked his government to move as quickly as possible to bring North Korea to the Olympics, but he stressed that an improvement in inter-Korean relations “cannot go separately with resolving North Korea’s nuclear programme”.
China, which has persistently urged a return to talks to ease tensions, said recent positive comments from North and South Korea were a good thing.
“China welcomes and supports North Korea and South Korea taking earnest efforts to treat this as an opportunity to improve mutual relations, promote the alleviation of the situation on the Korean peninsula and realise denuclearisation on the peninsula,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
(Reporting by Christine Kim, Jane Chung and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul, Michael Martina in Beijing, Doina Chiacu, David Brunnstrom, David Alexander and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, and Rodrigo Campos at the United Nations; Editing by Andrew Hay, Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker)