WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae In agreed Friday to apply "maximum pressure" on North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile programs, while leaving the door to dialogue open "under the right circumstances."
In a joint statement issued after their White House meeting, the two leaders also affirmed the significance of trilateral security cooperation with Japan, saying it "contributes to enhanced deterrence and defense against the North Korean threat."
"They affirmed their commitment to fully implement existing sanctions and impose new measures designed to apply maximum pressure on North Korea and compel Pyongyang to cease its provocative actions and return to sincere and constructive talks," the statement said.
Trump and Moon, who took office in January and May, respectively, will hold three-way talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to coordinate North Korea policy on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies slated for July 7-8 in Hamburg, Germany, it said.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Trump, Moon said the two allies agreed that "only strong security can bring about genuine peace" on the Korean Peninsula and that they "concurred to strengthen our overwhelming deterrence" against North Korea.
Trump said North Korea's nuclear and missile programs require a "determined response," and urged other countries to implement sanctions on North Korea to curb its aggressive weapons development.
In an effort to further tighten the economic screws on North Korea, the U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned the Bank of Dandong, a Chinese bank accused of laundering money for the country.
The bank was the first Chinese lender that the Trump administration has cut off from the U.S. financial system, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who suggested more entities in China and elsewhere could come under U.S. sanctions to block all illegal funds from entering North Korea.
While Trump and Moon pledged to apply maximum pressure on North Korea, they remain open to dialogue with Pyongyang "under the right circumstances," according to the statement.
The statement does not say what the right circumstances are. But Trump said North Korea must give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and demanded that the leadership in Pyongyang "choose a better path and do it quickly, and a different future for its long-suffering people."
Moon, a liberal who has advocated a more moderate approach toward North Korea than his conservative predecessor Park Geun Hye, said Seoul and Washington "will employ both sanctions and dialogue in a phased and comprehensive approach" in dealing with Pyongyang.
The two sides decided to "closely coordinate on our joint North Korea policy," including how to create conditions necessary for denuclearization talks, the statement said.
Moreover, Trump supported "Moon's aspiration to restart inter-Korean dialogue" on issues including humanitarian affairs, it said.
Despite the two leaders affirming close coordination over North Korea, they were at odds over trade issues, with the joint statement making no reference to renegotiation of the bilateral free trade agreement Trump has been calling for.
In the meeting, part of which was open to the media, Trump said the two governments "are renegotiating" the bilateral FTA in hopes of making it an "equitable" deal.
Trump criticized South Korea's growing trade surplus with the United States and demanded that Seoul remove trade barriers and improve market access for U.S. exports, including automobiles.
"It's been a rough deal for the United States," he said. "But I think that it will be much different and it will be good for both parties."
Speaking at the news conference, Trump said the U.S. trade deficit with South Korea increased by more than $11 billion between 2011, when the FTA was signed, and 2016.
But Trump said, "I'm encouraged by President Moon's assurances that he will work to create a level playing field so that American workers and businesses and especially automakers can have a fair shake at dealing with South Korea."
Moon said the two leaders agreed to promote economic growth and job creation so the people of the two countries can enjoy greater mutual benefits.