President Trump said Friday that the “era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed,” as he met with South Korea’s president in Washington to discuss the nuclear weapons threat from Pyongyang and other top issues.
“Frankly, that patience is over,” he said, citing the death of American student Otto Warmbier as an example of the brutality of the North Korean regime.
“The United States will defend itself, always will defend itself” and its allies, Trump said.
Trump welcomed South Korean President Moon Jae-in for formal talks at the White House a day after they met over dinner. As well as concerns over North Korea's technological progress toward a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the continental U.S., Trump is pushing for a narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea.
Since his 2016 election campaign, Trump has been critical of a 2012 bilateral free trade agreement and barriers to U.S. auto exports. South Korea had trade surplus of $17 billion with the U.S. last year when including both goods and services.
"We are renegotiating a trade deal right now as we speak with South Korea and hopefully it will be an equitable deal, it will be a fair deal for both parties," Trump said alongside Moon in the Oval Office. ""We want something that will be very good for the American worker."
On North Korea, Trump said earlier, "we have a very, very strong and solid plan." On Thursday, the Treasury Department blacklisted a Chinese bank accused of conducting millions in illicit business with North Korea as Washington intensified pressure on Beijing to crackdown on its wayward ally.
The South Korean leader has sought to make clear to the U.S. that he is also serious about dealing with his neighbor's threat, despite his inclination to restart dialogue with the North.
Moon's conservative predecessor, who was impeached in a bribery scandal, took a hard line toward North Korea. In recent interviews, Moon has said sanctions alone cannot solve the problem of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, but the "right conditions" are needed for dialogue.
In another point of contention, Moon has delayed the full deployment of a U.S. missile defense system, which is intended to defend South Koreans and the 28,000 U.S. troops based in the country, pending an environmental review.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.