The time for “strategic patience” with North Korea is over, US President Donald Trump warned Monday, after winning Japan’s backing for his policy of considering all options to rein in the rogue state.
Mr Trump described the North’s nuclear program as “a threat to the civilized world and international peace and stability” on the second day of his Asia tour dominated by the crisis.
The president has signaled in the past that Washington could look beyond a diplomatic solution to the North’s nuclear weapons ambitions and consider military intervention, Fox News reported.
“The era of strategic patience is over,” he declared alongside his host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
North Korea mocks the USA and POTUS Trump, “No one can predict when the lunatic old man of the White House, lost to senses, will start a nuclear war against North Korea,” the regime’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a statement Monday. “The U.S. should not expect us to make any change.”
The Hermit Kingdom, referencing dictator Kim Jong Un, said an “outstanding leader” will determine the country’s destiny. Without “distinguished leadership,” North Korea would have “fallen a victim to the invasion by the barbarous U.S. imperialists.”
Washington hoped sanctions pressure and internal stresses in the isolated country would bring about change but critics said the policy gave Pyongyang room to push ahead with its nuclear ambitions.
Close ally Abe echoed Mr Trump’s remarks, voicing Japan’s support for Washington’s policy that “all options are on the table” to deal with the North Korean threat — including military force.
Mr Abe, whose country is in the firing line of North Korean missiles, also announced Japanese sanctions on the assets of 35 North Korean groups and individuals.
The United Nations has adopted multiple rounds of sanctions against the reclusive North, the most recent in September following its sixth nuclear test and a flurry of missile launches.
Earlier, Mr Trump had appeared to adopt a more conciliatory tone towards North Korea, saying he would not rule out talks with its bellicose young leader Kim Jong-Un.
“I would sit down with anybody,” he said. “I don’t think it’s strength or weakness, I think sitting down with people is not a bad thing,” he said in a television interview.
“So I would certainly be open to doing that but we’ll see where it goes, I think we’re far too early.”
And the president again praised the “great people” of North Korea, adding: “they are under a very repressive regime” and that he hoped it “works out for everyone.”
But Pyongyang showed no sign of let-up in its attacks on Mr Trump, with ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun calling him the “lunatic old man of the White House” and saying there was no telling when he would start a nuclear war.
Mr Abe said they had enjoyed each other’s company so much over a dinner of scallops and steak on Sunday night that they lost track of time, while Mr Trump said their relationship was “extraordinary.”
The trip has also provided lighter moments, such as when Mr Trump appeared to lose patience feeding koi carp in the imperial palace and tipped his whole box into the pond, to the evident amusement of his secretary of state.
Aides had been concerned the famously unorthodox Trump would go off message or commit some gaffe in the famously rules-sensitive country.
But Mr Trump sailed through a tricky protocol encounter with the emperor, greeting him with a slight nod and avoiding the criticism his predecessor Obama got by bowing to the diminutive Japanese ruler.
There were also a moment of high emotion when Mr Trump met the families of civilians abducted in the 1970s and 1980s, who were clutching pictures of their young family members.