Donald Trump says that as president of the United States he would consider opening talks with Kim Jong-un of North Korea.
Such a move would represent an about turn from current U.S. policy. Trump made the comments during an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, saying that he would attempt to negotiate to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, according to CNN.
Donald Trump willing to enter into negotiations with North Korea
“I would speak to him, I would have no problem speaking to him,” Trump said. He later said that he would use North Korea’s close relationship with China to try and make headway.
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“At the same time I would put a lot of pressure on China because economically we have tremendous power over China,” he said in the wide-ranging interview.
According to a senior South Korean Foreign Ministry official, it not “appropriate” for the South Korean government to comment on a U.S. presidential candidate’s comments. However they did say that “both the Republic of Korea and the United States are firm in their position that the issue of North Korean denuclearization should be the priority in any dialogue with North Korea.”
“North Korea should stop making threats and provocations and show sincere willingness to denuclearize,” said the spokesperson, who was not named.
Kim Jong-un isolated on international stage
North Korea has few international relationships, and China is its most important ally. While the Obama administration has called on China to assist in pressurizing North Korea, the White House has not used economic leverage due to worries over the Chinese reaction.
There are currently no formal relations between the U.S. and North Korea. Pyongyang is subject to a raft of international sanctions which are among the heaviest imposed on any nation in the world.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, the chairman of Trump’s national security advisers, said he was not worried by Trump’s professed willingness to speak to Kim due to his experience as a businessman.
“One of the things I think Donald Trump understands is power and opportunity,” Sessions said. “You just have to be very careful about that.”
Sessions believes that Trump was referring to a possibility of talks rather than a policy to engage. “I believe there’s nobody that’s run for president in years who understands how to negotiate more effectively than Donald Trump and I do believe he will not be disadvantaged by Kim Jong Il (Un) or anybody in North Korea,” Sessions said. “I think it’s unlikely that a good result would come out of it, but to attempt something like that may be worth the effort.”
U.S. maintains policy of isolation
Talks between North Korea and five other powers regarding the country’s nuclear program have been going on for years. However they have not been very successful and never risen to a presidential level.
However there have been occasions when high-profile visitors have gone to Pyongyang to negotiate the release of detained Americans. In 2009 former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea to negotiate the release of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.
In 2008 Obama campaigned on his willingness to negotiate with U.S. enemies. He has since visited Cuba and negotiated an historic deal with Iran, but there has been no such engagement with North Korea. In fact under Obama the U.S. has isolated North Korea even more.
Hillary Clinton, who seems likely to face off against Trump in the U.S. general election, used her senior foreign policy adviser to criticize Trump’s remarks.
“Let me get this straight: Donald Trump insults the leader of our closest ally, then turns around and says he’d love to talk to Kim Jong Un?” Jake Sullivan said. “His approach to foreign policy makes no sense for the rest of us.”