NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump on Monday said he would be "honoured" to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "under the right circumstances."
"If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would, absolutely, I would be honored to do it," Trump said Monday in an interview with Bloomberg News, an American financial news service. "If it's under the right circumstances. But I would do that."
It's the first time since taking office Trump has expressed a willingness to meet with Kim. Last year, then-candidate Trump said he would negotiate directly with the controversial North Korean leader.
"Most political people would never say that," Trump said in Monday's interview, "but I'm telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him. We have breaking news."
"Clearly, conditions are not there right now," Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said during his daily news briefing Monday. "We've got to see their provocative behaviour ratchet down immediately. There's a lot of conditions that I think would have to happen with respect to its behaviour and to show signs of good faith."
In an interview with the Washington Times last week, Trump called the North Korean leader a "pretty smart cookie."
On Saturday, Trump extended a White House invitation to controversial Phillipines President Rodrigo Duterte.
Human rights advocates criticized the invitation as an endorsement by Trump of Duterte's policies.
On Monday, Duterte said he might be too busy to accept Trump's invitation because he was "tied up" with a busy schedule.
"I cannot make any definite promise," he said. "I'm supposed to go to Russia; I'm also supposed to go to Israel."
The White House said Trump plans to visit the Phillipines in November.
Meanwhile, analysts noted that the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, and as recently as last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. would negotiate with Kim's regime only if it made credible steps toward giving up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
"Most political people would never say that," Trump said of his willingness to meet with the Kim, "but I'm telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him. We have breaking news."
Tensions have escalated since Trump vowed in January that he wouldn't let North Korea develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the U.S., and North Korea has labeled American military moves in the region as acts of "intimidation and blackmail." North Korea has continued to test missiles this year after carrying out two nuclear tests last year.
While dispatching an aircraft carrier group and a submarine to the region, the Trump administration has emphasized the use of economic sanctions and diplomacy to persuade North Korea to curtail its nuclear program. Trump has said he's encouraged by Chinese President Xi Jinping's efforts to defuse the situation. Trump and Xi met last month at the U.S. president's private club in Florida and have talked several times since. (APP)