Trump ‘hopes to God’ not to use US military against North Korea

While warning of US firepower, president also adopts conciliatory tone in South Korea

South Korean protesters and supporters of US president Donald Trump held separate rallies in front of US military base 'Camp Humphreys' as he visited the base. Video: Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump has moderated his previously belligerent tone on North Korea after meeting President Moon Jae-in in Seoul, saying he “hoped to God” he did not have to use US military might to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

“We are showing great strength and I think they [North Korea] understand we have unparalleled strength. With that being said, I really believe it makes sense for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and people of the world,” Mr Trump said at the start of a two-day visit to South Korea.

“We hope to God we never have to use” America’s full firepower on the Korean Peninsula, he said.

While his rhetoric remained charged, it was far less strident than the messages he has been communicating in recent weeks, during which he described North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man” and threatened to completely destroy the country.

After a meeting with Mr Moon in the Blue House presidential office, he said the two countries had agreed to remove the limit on the payload of South Korean ballistic missiles, and also discuss ways to send nuclear-powered submarines to the region, Yonhap news agency reported.

“We cannot allow North Korea to threaten all that we have built. We have built it very much together and we are very proud of it, also together,” Mr Trump said, speaking on the second leg of his five-nation Asian tour.

‘A fine gentleman’

The US leader had laid the ground for a positive meeting with South Korea earlier when he tweeted before leaving Tokyo: “Getting ready to leave for South Korea and meetings with President Moon, a fine gentleman. We will figure it all out!”

This tone continued when he spoke to reporters after meeting military commanders and said: “Ultimately it will all work out, it always works out, it has to work out.”

The US leader urged all countries, including China and Russia, to follow the terms of United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

Mr Trump and his wife Melania landed at the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, 70km south of Seoul, then flew by helicopter to the US military base Camp Humphreys, where he met US and South Korean troops, and Mr Moon.

The US has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, most of them at the demilitarised zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas.

Mr Trump has previously spoken of the need to narrow the United States’s trade deficit with South Korea. In a similar way to Japan, he said that this could be achieved by ordering weapons and equipment from US arms manufacturers.

“We have the greatest military equipment in the world and South Korea will be ordering billions of dollars of that equipment, which for them makes a lot of sense and for us means jobs and reducing our trade deficit with South Korea,” Mr Trump said.

It is the first state visit by a US president to South Korea in 25 years.

The North staged its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3rd and has also tested a series of missiles.

Mr Trump’s tour also includes China, Vietnam and the Philippines.