President Donald Trump on Friday declared the U.S. has run out of patience with North Korea, as he met with his South Korean counterpart at the White House.
Speaking in the Rose Garden alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump vowed a “determined response” against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
“The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed,” Trump said, referring to his predecessors’ approach to the North. “Many years and it’s failed, and frankly, that patience is over.”
Trump and Moon differ over exactly how much to pressure the North into giving up its weapons programs. Both leaders also have criticized certain aspects of their countries’ defense cooperation.
But on Friday the two leaders presented a unified front.
Words of praise
After a discussion that lasted about 30 minutes longer than scheduled, Moon praised Trump’s “determination and pragmatism” and said they were able to build a “broad consensus” on issues ranging from defense ties to the North Korean nuclear issue.
“The North Korean nuclear issue must be resolved without fail,” Moon said. “North Korea should by no means underestimate the firm commitment of Korea and the U.S. in this regard.”
Few specifics were given about North Korea strategy. Moon said both “sanctions and dialogue” would be used in dealing with Pyongyang, while Trump’s comments focused more on applying additional pressure.
“The United States calls on other regional powers and all responsible nations to join us in implementing sanctions and demanding that the North Korea regime choose a better path, do it quickly, and a different future for its long-suffering people,” Trump said.
It was the first meeting between Trump, a billionaire former real estate developer, and Moon, a liberal human rights lawyer who took office last month. The meeting was closely watched, not only because of the stark personality differences between the two leaders, but also for the potential areas of disagreement.
During the presidential campaign, Trump harshly criticized South Korean trade practices. He also frequently slammed Seoul and other U.S. allies for not paying enough for defense protection from the U.S.
On Friday, Trump assured Moon that the U.S. “will always defend our allies,” but he added that there needs to be “fair burden-sharing in South Korea.”
On trade, Trump said the existing U.S.-South Korea trade agreement has been “rough for the U.S.” and that he is working to create a “fair and reciprocal” economic relationship with South Korea.
Since the current trade deal went into effect in 2012, the U.S. trade deficit with Seoul has doubled. “Not exactly a great deal,” Trump complained Friday.
But the bulk of the two leaders’ comments on Friday dealt with North Korea.
“Together we are facing the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea,” Trump said. Any “threats and provocations by the North will be met with a stern response,” Moon added.
Moon is seeking to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to pause his nuclear and missile programs in exchange for restarting talks, which eventually would aim for a complete disarmament. Trump prefers maximizing diplomatic pressure and sanctions before engaging in such talks.
It isn’t clear that Kim would even agree to restarting talks in exchange for a freeze, since the government in Pyongyang considers its weapons programs essential to its survival.