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In a sharp shift, Trump calls for North Korea to 'make a deal'

Brian Bennett, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

SEOUL, South Korea -- President Donald Trump didn't threaten to unleash "fire and fury" or to "totally destroy" North Korea. He didn't needle Kim Jong Un by calling him "little rocket man."

Instead, at a news conference in South Korea's capital Tuesday within range of North Korean artillery, Trump spoke in unusually measured tones and called on North Korea's ruler to "come to the table and make a deal" to give up its growing nuclear weapons arsenal.

Trump delivered threats as well, calmly listing the firepower the U.S. currently has pointed at the Korean Peninsula, including three carrier strike groups and a nearby nuclear submarine -- as well as "many things happening that we hope, we hope -- in fact, I'll go a step further, we hope to God we never have to use."

"I do see certain movement, yes," Trump said at the joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. "But let's see what happens."

He offered no specifics, noting that his administration likes "to play our cards a little bit close to the vest."

Trump's call for a deal came five weeks after he publicly dismissed the possibility of diplomacy with North Korea, saying on Twitter that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was "wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man."

The shift from incendiary rhetoric to talk of negotiations came after a long afternoon of talks and a walk through the woods with Moon. The South Korean leader, who was elected promising to make overtures to North Korea, agreed to push forward with plans to purchase more U.S. reconnaissance equipment and larger missile batteries.

Trump went further, touting South Korea's promise to buy "billions" of dollars' worth of U.S.-made military equipment as an example of how he was narrowing the trade deficit with Seoul and creating American jobs, although the White House did not provide any figures.

Moon spoke of the "special bond" he has developed with Trump and said he hoped Trump's visit to the Korean Peninsula "will be a turning point" in the decades-old standoff with North Korea.

Like Trump, Moon called for "maximum pressure" on Kim to convince him to abandon his nuclear weapons program. He said the U.S. and South Korea are "willing to offer North Korea a bright future" in return.

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