President Trump said Tuesday he is open to the idea of opening multi-party talks involving the U.S., South Korea and North Korea to reduce the nuclear tensions on the peninsula – but only under certain conditions.
During a phone conversation with South Korea President President Moon Jae-in, a White House statement said, Trump "expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances."
The statement did not specify the circumstances, but the openness to talks with Pyongyang marks a shift for Trump.
The president publicly blasted his secretary of State in October for "wasting his time" by trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – right after Rex Tillerson acknowledged for the first time that the administration is in “direct contact" with Pyongyang and is seeking a dialogue about its missile and nuclear tests.
Trump also said he wants to maintain pressure on North Korea, urging China and other countries to withhold economic aid to Kim Jong Un until he gives up his nuclear weapons programs.
The U.S. president credited his tough stance for encouraging new contacts between the two Koreas, including a new agreement in which the North will send athletes to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea.
During a briefing on recent discussions between North and South Korea, Moon "thanked President Trump for his influential leadership in making the talks possible," the statement said. "The two leaders underscored the importance of continuing the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea. "
Trump also told his South Korean counterpart that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the American delegation to the Olympics in Pyeongchang.