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.
Trump is on the third day of an 11-day swing through five countries in Asia.
Earlier in the day, Trump ate lunch with South Korean and American troops on Camp Humphreys, the hub for nearly 30,000 U.S. military troops on the peninsula, before he headed to Seoul for talks with Moon.
On streets near the South Korean presidential mansion, called the Blue House for the color of its traditional tiled roof, protesters held signs reading "No Trump" and "No war."
Other onlookers waved U.S. and South Korean flags. Hundreds of Seoul police officers stood at major intersections in rows several officers deep to stop marchers from getting too close to the compound.
Inside the Blue House, Moon was effusive in his compliments, congratulating Trump on the upcoming anniversary of his election victory, the strong U.S. economy and record-high stock market.
"You are already making great progress on making America great again," he said.
He also praised Trump for putting North Korea "at the top" of his list of security concerns.
Moon must walk a fine line during Trump's two-day state visit to one of America's closest allies. In September, Trump publicly criticized Moon's policy, saying his "talk of appeasement" with the North was doomed to fail.
Opinion polls show South Korean voters overwhelmingly approve of Moon's performance in office so far, but are wary of Trump and worried he will start a war.
In the spring of 2015, about 88 percent of South Koreans in a Pew Research Center survey said they trusted the American president to "do the right thing regarding world affairs." Two years later, that share has fallen to 17 percent, according to the center's global attitudes poll.
Moon was elected in a landslide in May after campaigning on promises to reach out to North Korea. He has shown a willingness to take a harder line in recent months following a series of ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang, including two that indicated it has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
He faces domestic political pressure to tamp down Trump's unpredictable and bellicose pronouncements, which have set many South Koreans on edge.
Trump's threat to "totally destroy" North Korea if the U.S. or its allies had to defend itself from an attack, delivered in front of the United Nations General Assembly in September, rattled some politicians in Seoul, who fear Trump is pushing for a military attack on North Korea's nuclear program and has ruled out diplomatic options.
South Korea's top diplomat reflected that unease Monday, calling for a peaceful solution during an interview in Seoul with NBC News' Lester Holt.
"Another war on the Korean Peninsula must not happen," South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said. "A resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue must be pursued in a peaceful, diplomatic manner."
(Special correspondent Matt Stiles in Seoul contributed to this report.)
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