Invoking an alliance with South Korea “forged in the crucible of war,” President Donald Trump warned the nuclear-armed North Korean regime “not to underestimate us” and called on all nations to “deny it any form of support, supply, or acceptance.”
“I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for all civilized nations, when I say to the North: Do not underestimate us, and do not try us,” Trump warned Wednesday in a sweeping address before the South Korean National Assembly.
“All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea — to deny it any form of support, supply, or acceptance,” Trump said. “The longer we wait, the greater the danger grows, and the fewer the options become.”
Standing on the dais, just 35 miles from the North Korean border, the president also spoke directly to Kim Jong Un, who he addressed by name.
“The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger,” Trump said. “North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned. It is a hell that no person deserves.”
Trump, who in recent days has expressed openness to a “deal” with North Korea, said he remains open to a negotiation but only if “complete and verifiable denuclearization” is on the table.
“We will not be intimidated,” Trump said. “And we will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here on the ground we fought and died so hard to secure.”
He added, “If you want peace, you must stand strong at all times.”
President Trump painted a picture of horrific living conditions under dictator Kim Jong Un -– a “twisted regime” he called a “cult” -– describing personal stories of torture and abuse and harrowing attempts to escape.
He accused China and Russia, two financial benefactors of North Korea, for being complicit in the regime’s abuses.
“To those nations that choose to ignore this threat or, worse still, to enable it,” Trump said, “the weight of this crisis is on your conscience.” He urged all countries to sever formal diplomatic recognition of North Korea and end trade and technological ties.
Administration officials have been optimistic that the president’s approach –- starkly different than his predecessors’ at least rhetorically -– may force the Kim regime to improve its behavior and avoid the disastrous last resort of military conflict.
On Monday in South Korea, Trump suggested he could “make a deal” with the regime, urging North Korea to “come to the table,” but would not say whether he still believes direct talks are a waste of time.
In addition, there is big political pressure to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terror and national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters last week the administration is considering it.
“That’s an option that’s under consideration. The president’s Cabinet is looking at this as part of the overall strategy on North Korea,” he said.
A senior administration official told ABC News that conversations are “ongoing” and “fluid” as to when to make the announcement, adding “it’s a matter of when rather than if.”
During his inaugural trip to China, Trump will directly confront President Xi Jingping over North Korea, seeking concrete commitments the country will do more to crack down.
“In the end, we will work things out far better than anyone understands or can appreciate,” Trump said in his speech.