Donald Trump says ‘major, major conflict’ with North Korea is possible, but prefers diplomacy
28th April 2017
US President Donald Trump has said a “major conflict” with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute.
- Donald Trump says Chinese President is “trying very hard” to resolve N Korea tension
- US President operating from the assumption that Kim Jong-un is rational
- US wants to renegotiate S Korean trade deal, payment for missile defence system
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Mr Trump said in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office this weekend.
Nonetheless, Mr Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedevilled multiple US presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasising by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table.
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.
The North’s state news agency dismissed the US President’s remarks, saying “Trump is recklessly resorting to the hackneyed methods, being utterly ignorant of the DPRK [North Korea]”.
Mr Trump lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for his assistance in trying to rein in North Korea. The two leaders met in Florida earlier this month.
“I believe he is trying very hard,” Mr Trump said.
“He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it.
“He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well. With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China.
“I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t.”
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there was a danger the situation on the Korean Peninsula could escalate or slip out of control, his ministry said.
US focusing on economic, diplomatic pressure
Mr Trump spoke just a day after he and his top national security advisers briefed US senators on the North Korean threat and one day before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was to press the United Nations Security Council on sanctions to further isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.
The Trump administration has declared North Korea “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority”.
It said it was focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure, including Chinese cooperation in containing its defiant neighbour and ally, and remained open to negotiations.
US officials said military strikes remained an option but played down the prospect, though the administration has sent an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine to the region in a show of force.
Any direct US military action would run the risk of massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among US forces in both countries.
Mr Trump, asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to be rational, said he was operating from the assumption that he was rational.
He noted Mr Kim had taken over his country at an early age.
“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age,” Mr Trump said.
“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said.
Mr Trump, sipping a cola delivered by an aide after the President ordered it by pressing a button on his desk, appeared to rebuff an overture from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who said a direct phone call with Mr Trump could take place again after their first conversation in early December angered Beijing.
China considers neighbouring Taiwan to be a renegade province.
“My problem is that I have established a very good personal relationship with President Xi,” Mr Trump said.
“I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation. So I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him.
“So I would certainly want to speak to him first.”
Trump wants S Korea trade deal redone, defence payment
Mr Trump also said he wanted South Korea to pay the cost of the US THAAD anti-missile defence system, which he estimated at $US1 billion ($1.34 billion), and intends to renegotiate or terminate a US free trade pact with South Korea because of a deep trade deficit with Seoul.
Asked when he would announce his intention to renegotiate the pact, Mr Trump said: “Very soon. I’m announcing it now”.
Mr Trump also said he was considering adding stops to Israel and Saudi Arabia to a Europe trip next month, emphasising that he wanted to see an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
He also complained that Saudi Arabia was not paying its fair share for US defence.