Trump touched down at the Osan Air Base outside the South Korean capital of Seoul on Tuesday, kicking off his 24-hour state visit on the second leg of a five-nation trip to Asia.
Shortly after arrival, Trump was flown by helicopter to the US military base Camp Humphreys, which lies about 100 kilometers from the border with North Korea, visiting US and South Korean troops along with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
The US president praised Moon and the “great cooperation” between Seoul and Washington in countering what he called nuclear and missile threats from Pyongyang. Trump also vowed to address trade issues in discussions with Moon.
“There is great cooperation; we have a terrific meeting scheduled on trade in a little while with President Moon and his representatives. And hopefully, that will start working out and working out so that we create a lot of jobs in the United States, which is one of the reasons that I’m here,” he said.
Ahead of the meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Trump thanked the South Korean government for military equipment purchases from the US and said the issue of North Korea will top the agenda of his meetings with South Korean officials.
The South Korean president later welcomed Trump during a ceremony at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, saying that he hoped the visit would relieve some of South Koreans’ anxiety over North Korea and serve as a “turning point” in resolving the crisis on North Korea.
“I hope that your visit to Korea and to the Asia Pacific region will offer us the opportunity to release some of the anxiety that the Korean people have due to North Korea’s provocations and also assert a turning point in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue,” Moon said.
Threatening North Korea & inviting it to dialog
At a press conference held with Moon, Trump said the US and its allies are “making a lot of progress” in dealing with the perceived threat from North Korea, adding that Washington was prepared to use the full range of its military capabilities against Pyongyang if necessary.
Trump said he was prepared to do whatever was necessary “to prevent the North Korean dictator from threatening lives … so needlessly.”
“It makes sense for North Korea to come to the table to make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world,” he said.
Protests in Seoul
Meanwhile, protesters staged a massive rally in Seoul to denounce the US president’s visit to the country and his approach toward regional issues.
The protesters voiced concern about Trump’s war-like rhetoric against North Korea, saying it could trigger another military confrontation on the peninsula. Scuffles broke out between the demonstrators and the police.
The US president has taken a tough stance against Pyongyang. He has repeatedly threatened Pyongyang with military action, recently saying that the era of strategic patience with the North was over.
Tensions have been building on the Korean Peninsula following a series of nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang as well as threats of war and personal insults traded between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korea has been under a raft of United Nations sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests and missile launches.
Pyongyang has firmly defended its weapons programs as a deterrent against hostile policies of the US and its regional allies, including South Korea.