President Donald Trump on Monday said he believes North Korea’s new interest in coming to the table to discuss denuclearization is a sincere gesture that proves that his administration’s “strong” sanctions are working.
“Do you believe that North Korea’s recent willingness to talk is sincere?” Trump was asked during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at the White House. “And to what do you owe this recent openness to talk?”
The president first jokingly answered that only he was responsible for the possible negotiations with North Korea, but he quickly acknowledged that his attempt at humor fell flat: “Nobody got that,” Trump said.
“I think that they are sincere,” he said, referring to North Korea. “But I think that they are sincere also because of the sanctions.”
However, before the president’s latest comments, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed a less hopeful reaction to North Korea’s latest move.
“I’m quite skeptical about all of this,” Coats said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday. “[…] Maybe this is a breakthrough. I seriously doubt it. As I said, hope springs eternal.”
The president also reiterated that the U.S. has placed “very, very strong and very biting” sanctions on the rogue nation.
“And we don’t want that to happen,” he added. “I really believe they are sincere. I hope they’re sincere. We’re going to soon find out.”
Last month, the Trump administration imposed the “largest ever” set of sanctions against North Korea, targeting “shipping and trade companies, vessels and individuals across the world who we know are working on North Korea’s behalf.”
But on Tuesday, news broke that following a meeting between South Korean officials and Kim Jong Un, the North’s leader said he is willing to discuss halting nuclear testing if safety can be guaranteed for his regime.
“North Korea has clearly expressed its intention for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, and if there is no military threat, and North Korea’s regime security is promised, they have clarified that there is no reason to hold nuclear weapons,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a statement.
The president also commented on the progress made regarding North Korea earlier on Tuesday.
“We have come, certainly, a long way, at least rhetorically, with North Korea,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with Löfven. “It would be a great thing for the world, it would be a great thing for North Korea, it would be a great thing for the peninsula. But we’ll see what happens.”