President Donald Trump has warned that the United States and North Korea could “absolutely” go to war in a “major, major conflict” over the communist state’s nuclear threat.
Mr Trump insisted he wanted to solve the stand-off peacefully with a set of tough new sanctions.
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically – but it’s very difficult,” he admitted.
Speaking in a wide-ranging interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday, Mr Trump said he missed his old life as a property mogul and host of the reality TV show Celebrity Apprentice.
“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” he confessed. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier,” he added.
The president also complained that he was no longer able to get behind the wheel of a car or feel free to travel on a whim because of security fears.
“You’re really into your own little cocoon, because you have such massive protection that you really can’t go anywhere,” he told Reuters.
With concern over a possible confrontation with North Korea clearly uppermost in his thoughts, Mr Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping, even though China was the target of much of his criticism during the election campaign.
He praised China for trying to calm tensions with the rogue Pyongyang regime.
“I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it,” Mr Trump said of President Jinping.
“He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well. With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t.”
Asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to be rational, Mr Trump said: “He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.
“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do,” he added.
“As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it,” he said. “I hope he’s rational.”
In an interview set to air ton Friday on National Public Radio in the US, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that direct talks with Pyongyang are “the way we would like to solve this.”
But, like President Trump, he warned that North Korea “has to decide they’re ready to talk to us about the right agenda,” and that would not include pausing their nuclear programme at its current level for a few years “and then resuming things.”
Mr Tillerson will chair a special meeting of the UN Security Council today to discuss North Korea, two days after a rare briefing in the US Senate on the threats and possible action that could be taken against the Pyongyang government.
Members of US Congress are due to vote next week on a bill to authorise new sanctions against North Korea targeting the country’s shipping and financial sectors.
The Trump administration is focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang, according to US officials.
Washington is also stepping up pressure that began under the Obama administration against Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia – which have diplomatic and financial links to Pyongyang – to downgrade or cut diplomatic ties with North Korea.
Source: Evening Standard