National / Politics

Trump strikes dovish tone on North Korea and Iran ahead of talks with Abe in Tokyo

AFP-JIJI

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday hailed a “great respect” between the U.S. and nuclear-armed North Korea, as he also held out the possibility of talks with Iran, stressing he does not want “terrible things” to happen.

Ahead of his summit talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump played down recent belligerence from Pyongyang, which last month fired short-range missiles that raised tensions in the region.

“I personally think that lots of good things will come with North Korea, I feel that. I may be right, I may be wrong, but I feel that,” Trump told reporters at Abe’s office.

“There’s a good respect built, maybe a great respect built between . . . the United States and North Korea, but we will see what happens,” added the president, whose failed talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in late February sparked a fresh spike in tensions.

He noted that when he came to office, there was “testing all the time, nuclear testing at the highest level, and that seems to have stopped.”

On Sunday, Trump dismissed the recent missile tests from the North as “some small weapons” and appeared to undercut John Bolton, his national security adviser, who had said the day before that the launches contravened U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Trump said the recent tests had “disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” which was widely seen as a reference to Bolton.

Trump also struck a relatively dovish tone on Iran, amid mounting tensions with the historic American foe.

“I do believe that Iran would like to talk, and if they’d like to talk, we’d like to talk also,” Trump said.

“We’ll see what happens, but I know for a fact that the prime minister (Abe) is very close with the leadership of Iran … nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me.”

Abe is reportedly weighing a trip to Tehran in a bid to mediate in the Middle East crisis and Trump appeared to give the green light, saying, “We’ll see what happens, that would be fine.”

Trump is currently in Japan on a four-day state visit and he is the first foreign leader to meet newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito — an honor Abe hopes will help charm the U.S. president when it comes to thorny trade talks.