SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA —
In a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly, U.S. President Donald Trump has sent a message north of the border, calling on leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang to give up all his nuclear weapons for a chance to step on to “a better path.”
Trump on Wednesday also warned, “Do not underestimate us and do not try us. We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity and our sacred liberty.”
His words were underscored by the presence of three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups and nuclear submarines, which the president said “are appropriately positioned” near the peninsula.
The U.S president referred to North Korea as a failure, a “twisted regime” ruled by a cult and a tyrant who enslaves his people – a characterization certain to provoke a harsh rhetorical reply from Pyongyang, which has repeatedly accused the United States of preparing to attack and refers to Trump as a deplorable crazed man.
“The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens it with nuclear devastation,” said Trump in his speech. “All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea – to deny it any form of support.”
Trump had effusive praise for South Korea, contrasting its economic success with the dark situation in the North.
“The more successful South Korea becomes, the more decisively you discredit the dark fantasy at the heart of the Kim regime,” said the U.S. president.
Trump’s 35-minute address, which he was still editing at the last minute, according to the National Assembly speaker, came after a surprise but aborted Wednesday morning trip to the Korean DMZ. But it ended on a hopeful note, which is the Korean dream: the peaceful reunification of the peninsula.
But with Kim’s weapons of mass destruction posing a greater threat, Trump warned, “the longer we wait, the greater the danger grows and the few the options become.”
President Trump generally took a more optimistic view of diplomacy during his visit to Seoul, which included meetings on Tuesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. He said progress has been made to diffuse heightened tensions in the region, a striking departure from the tone of his tweets in recent weeks suggesting talks with Pyongyang to resolve the nuclear crisis were "a waste of time."
The president will now travel to Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping that are expected to focus on the situation in North Korea as well as trade.