WASHINGTON — President Trump told his South Korean counterpart by telephone Wednesday that he is not considering a so-called bloody nose military strike on North Korea, according to a summary of their conversation released in Seoul.
Trump told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that news reports that his administration is assessing such an action are “completely wrong,” according to a statement from Moon’s office, quoted by Reuters.
A White House summary of the conversation made no mention of any such assurances.
In December, Yahoo News reported that U.S. officials in Congress and the Trump administration were considering a range of options for ramping up pressure on North Korea, including what one well-placed former official called a “bloody nose” military strike. Britain’s the Telegraph was the first to report that such an action was under consideration. The Wall Street Journal reported the same thing this week.
Such a use of force could lead to North Korean retaliation, potentially escalating to a catastrophic all-out war that would put millions of lives at risk in South Korea, as well as nearby Japan.
Coming a day after North and South Korea held their first talks in more than two years, the statement from Moon’s office also said that Trump was open to negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, under the right circumstances.
“Both heads of state forecast the current inter-Korean talks could naturally lead to talks between the United States and North Korea for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and agreed to negotiate closely on the progression of inter-Korean talks,” the statement from Moon’s office said.
“President Trump said the United States is open to talks should North Korea want them, as long as the circumstances and timing are right,” it said.
The White House summary said that Trump “expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”
That echoed Trump’s public remarks over the weekend, when he told reporters at the Camp David presidential retreat that he would be willing to hold talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
“I always believe in talking,” Trump said. “Absolutely I would do that. No problem with that at all.”
At the time, Trump also praised North and South Korean discussions about the upcoming Olympic Games to be held in the South as “a big start,” and took credit for those conversations.
“If I weren’t involved, they wouldn’t be talking about Olympics right now. They’d be doing no talking or it would be much more serious,” Trump said.
On Wednesday, Moon himself said Trump deserves “big credit” for the resumption of North-South talks, linking them to the U.S. campaign for ramping up economic and diplomatic pressure on the secretive Stalinist regime because of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Trump’s relationship with Pyongyang has been marked by caustic statements and schoolyard taunts, with the U.S. leader deriding Kim as “short and fat.”
In the telephone conversation, Trump told Moon that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics.
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