President Trump says North Korea "seems to be acting positively" after South Korea announced the North would halt nuclear weapons and missile tests and put its entire atomic arsenal up for discussion if the U.S. agrees to enter a negotiation. (March 6) AP


WASHINGTON — President Trump expressed cautious optimism Tuesday about the prospects of nuclear talks with North Korea, but said the U.S. would wait and see how things play out — and he did not rule out the military option.

"There’s been a lot of news on that today, hopefully it’s positive," Trump said during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. "Hopefully it will lead to a very positive result.”

Earlier, before an Oval Office meeting with Löfven, Trump declined to say whether he would establish preconditions for nuclear talks with North Korea.

The president, who has not ruled out military force if North Korea absolutely refuses to give up its nuclear weapons programs, also said he would not let the dispute "fester" much longer.

"One way or the other, we have to do something," Trump said.

During the news conference, Trump again blamed his predecessors for allowing the North Korea nuclear program to grow and credited his own policies for the prospect of talks: Sanctions, he said, "have been very, very strong and biting."  

Trump, who has sent mixed signals on negotiating with North Korea, once admonished his own secretary of State for being willing to talk to North Korea, calling the exercise a "waste of time."

But the president has appeared to warm to the idea recently, even joking about it over the weekend at a dinner with Washington journalists. "I won't rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un. I just won't," he said. "As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that's his problem, not mine."

And in a tweet earlier on Tuesday, Trump said progress was possible, but cautioned that the North Korean overtures "may be false hope." He also tweeted that "the World is watching and waiting!" and that "the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!"

The meeting with the Swedish prime minister came shortly after North Korea said it would agree to hold talks with the United States about its nuclear weapons programs; administration officials have said they would not agree to talks until leader Kim Jong Un agreed to give up those weapons.

“I think that their statement, and the statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive," Trump said. "That would be a great thing for the world. A great thing for the world. So we’ll see how it all comes about.”

More: What you need to know about potential U.S.-North Korea talks

Löfven, a former welder and Swedish metal workers union leader, is the first member of the European Union leader to visit the White House since Trump pledged to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.

EU leaders like Löfven have criticized Trump's plan to place tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminum; Sweden exports both products.

The American and Swedish leaders also discussed North Korea. Sweden has long had diplomatic relations with Kim's government.

Löfven described the situation on the Korean Peninsula said one of the world's "key regional and global security challenges.

As a non-aligned country, Löfven said Sweden is willing to help broker potential negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.

In his remarks, Trump thanked Sweden for advocating the release of Americans who have been detained in North Korea, "and we remain determined to achieve a de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

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