April 27, 2018 / 10:49 AM / 7 months ago

Trump welcomes historic North, South Korea meeting

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump hailed the historic meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday, even while sounding a note of caution.

Kim and Moon pledged to work toward the “complete decentralization of the Korean peninsula,” and to seek to declare an official end to the 1950s Korean War and establish a permanent peace agreement.

In a series of tweets, Trump appeared optimistic about the outcome of the summit. The U.S. president is planning his own meeting with Kim, expected in the coming weeks, in what would be the first ever meeting between sitting leaders of the two countries.

“After a furious year of missile launches and Nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea is now taking place. Good things are happening, but only time will tell!” he said on Twitter, early on Friday morning in Washington.

He later added: “KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!”

The first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade took place just months after a surge in tensions between the United States and North Korea, as Trump and Kim exchanged threats and personal insults and Pyongyang made rapid advances in pursuit of nuclear-armed missiles capable of hitting the United States.

In a television interview on Thursday, Trump acknowledged the angry exchanges, including his dubbing of Kim as “Little Rocket Man” and a boast about the size of his nuclear button, as well as the concerns of critics at home and abroad who had accused him of fanning flames.

“Look, it was very, very nasty with Little Rocket Man and with the buttons — and, you know, my button’s bigger than — everybody said this guy’s going to get us into nuclear war,” he told Fox News Channel. “The nuclear war would have happened if you had weak people.”

Trump has long called on China to use its leverage as North Korea’s largest trading partner and sole ally to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, sometimes expressing disappointment with Beijing.

In another tweet on Friday, Trump credited Chinese President Xi Jinping for his help, saying: “Without him it would have been a much longer, tougher, process!”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about North Korea as Vice President Pence stands close by at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump has said he hopes to meet with Kim in May or June, and a White House official has said Trump may seek to meet with Moon beforehand.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Friday that Trump could still abandon negotiations with North Korea.

“It’s this president who has said he is willing to come to the table but he always has an exit strategy. If it’s not working for the American people, if it’s not working for diplomatic purposes, then he can just walk away,” she said in an interview with Fox News Channel.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Jeffrey Benkoe and Frances Kerry

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