By Andrew Beatty, AFP
Washington, United States — U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un under the right conditions, in comments that contrasted with earlier threats of military action. As Pyongyang threatens to carry out a sixth nuclear test that would further inflame tensions, Trump appeared to offer the prospect of a diplomatic off-ramp. “If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him I would, absolutely. I would be honored to do it,” Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg. “If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that,” Trump said. South Korean analysts said the U.S. president was “groping for an exit” after weeks of heightened tensions over the North’s weapons ambitions. In recent weeks Trump has threatened and berated the regime, fearing it may be months away from marrying nuclear and long-range missile technology — making a strike against the western United States possible.
Trump’s main gambit has been to encourage China to use its leverage to pressure Pyongyang — a strategy that has failed to produce results in the past. The Republican president has also said he is ready to act alone in the stand-off, however — and on Monday signaled that this could involve face-to-face talks with Kim, who has yet to meet a foreign leader since taking power. “Following weeks of huffing and puffing, Trump is apparently groping for an exit,” said Hong Hyun-ik of Sejong University in Seoul. “True to his mentality as a businessman, he has driven the situation close to the edge but stopped short of pushing it over the cliff in order to get the upper hand in future negotiations.” CIA chief’s visit In the latest rhetoric to fuel jitters across the region, North Korea — which has carried out five nuclear tests in the last 11 years — warned Monday that it was prepared to carry out another test “at any time and at any location” set by its leadership. The regime will continue bolstering its “preemptive nuclear attack” capabilities unless Washington scraps its hostile policies, a spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency.