President Donald Trump
said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
is beginning to respect the US, the latest comments that suggest his administration is moving closer to seeking talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.
“I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us,” Trump said of Kim at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday evening. “Maybe, probably not, something positive will come out of it.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
went out of his way earlier Tuesday to note that North Korea
hadn’t carried out “provocative acts” since the UN Security Council
imposed new sanctions on the country.
“I am pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint that we have not seen in the past,” Tillerson told reporters at the State Department. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
has ordered the production of more solid-fuel rocket engines, state media said on Wednesday, as he pursues nuclear and missile programmes amid a standoff with the US, but there were signs of tension easing.
Tillerson volunteered the remarks on North Korea
without prompting at a briefing Tuesday that was arranged to discuss the Trump administration’s new approach to Afghanistan. That suggested his intent was to give Kim Jong Un’s regime an opening and a signal.
The comments by Tillerson, the top U.S. diplomat, were far more conciliatory than previous warnings from Trump, who said earlier this month that further threats from Kim’s regime would be met with “fire and fury.” Kim has pledged to develop a nuclear missile that could hit the U.S. mainland.
Kim said earlier this month that he would watch the U.S.’s conduct “a little more” before deciding whether to fire ballistic missiles toward Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, as he’d threatened. While North Korea
hasn’t conducted a missile launch since the United Nations action, Kim has pushed ahead with developing his nuclear program.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency
reported Wednesday that Kim asked for increased production of solid-fuel engines and rocket warhead tips. Using solid rather than liquid fuel would allow North Korea
to launch missiles with less preparation.