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Trump Reiterates Openness To Talks With North Korea At 'Appropriate Time'

In December at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea, a man walks by a TV report about North Korea's missile launch with images of U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. On Wednesday, Trump and Moon spoke by phone and Trump expressed openness to U.S.-North Korea talks "at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances."

In a phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, President Trump once again expressed his willingness to hold talks between the U.S. and North Korea "at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances," according to a White House readout of Wednesday's call.

The conversation comes one day after the two Koreas held their first high-level talks in two years, resulting in North Korea's inclusion in the upcoming Winter Olympics. Other signs of a thaw in relations between the neighbors included an agreement to hold military talks.

During Wednesday's call, Moon "thanked President Trump for his influential leadership in making the talks possible," according to the White House.

At a weekend press conference at Camp David, Trump also suggested that the recent rapprochement between the North and South was due to his own "tough stance."

For months, the U.S. president and North Korea's leader have volleyed insults back and forth, most memorably with Trump dubbing Kim Jong Un "rocket man," and Kim responding that Trump was a "dotard."

Last week, Trump's Twitter taunt about the nuclear button on his desk being "much bigger & more powerful" than Kim's generated alarm among some about the seriousness of a nuclear threat being delivered in a seemingly off-handed way.

At Saturday's Camp David press conference, Trump also spoke of his willingness to hold phone talks with Kim.

"I always believe in talking," Trump said, adding, "but we have a very firm stance."

When pressed if there would be prerequisites to talks (the U.S. has historically demanded the North first commit to denuclearizing), Trump evaded the question.

"He [Kim] knows I'm not messing around. I'm not messing around — not even a little bit, not even one percent," Trump said. "At the same time, if we can come up with a very peaceful and very good solution — we're working on it with Rex [Secretary of State Rex Tillerson] and we're working on it with a lot of people — if something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity. That would be a great thing for the world. Very important, okay?"

Later on Wednesday, Trump held his first Cabinet meeting of the year, and according to Reuters, the president said that while he welcomed the possibility of U.S.-North Korea talks, it was unclear whether they would pay off.

"Who knows where it leads?" Trump said.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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