US President Donald Trump's trade policies have had a serious impact on South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb
Beyond their engagement with North Korea, Moon and US President Donald Trump had a vexed relationship. Photo: AFP / Saul Loeb

US President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, met in the White House on Thursday in hopes of reviving stalled nuclear talks with North Korea, which went off course when a summit earlier this year was abruptly cut short.

When asked whether his administration would be open to smaller deals with North Korea, short of complete verifiable de-nuclearization, Trump said that might be possible.

“I’d have to see what the deal is. There are various, smaller deals that maybe could happen. Things could happen. You can work out step by step pieces,” Trump said.

“But at this moment we’re talking about the big deal. The big deal is, we have to get rid of nuclear weapons,” he stressed.

Reports have suggested that President Moon is seeking to use the opportunity this week to ask Washington to consider a partial lifting of sanctions, in exchange for incremental concessions from the North.

The second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, held in Vietnam last February, ended with both sides making contradictory claims. While Trump said that he walked away from the negotiating table because the North asked for the lifting of all sanctions, Pyongyang insisted that it was only asking for an end to some.

Speaking in the press briefing at the White House alongside President Moon, Trump reiterated that he was in no hurry to reach a deal quickly.

“It’s not going to go fast. I’ve been telling you that for a long time … If it goes fast it’s not going to be the proper deal,” he said, adding that he wants sanctions to remain in place for the time being.

“Frankly, I had the option of significantly increasing them. I didn’t want to do that because of my relationship with Kim Jong Un … I didn’t think it was necessary … But I think that sanctions are right now at a level that’s a fair level and I really believe something very significant is going to happen.”

Trump again stressed that he believes North Korea can thrive under Kim Jong Un’s leadership.

“We think that North Korea has tremendous potential, and – really – potential under the leadership of Kim Jong Un. Let’s see how it all works out.”

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