U.S. President Donald Trump (R) welcomes South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo
April 11 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump said Thursday he supports the enforcement of North Korea sanctions, but also suggested he was holding back on stronger measures because of his relationship with Kim Jong Un.
In his first summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in since the breakdown of U.S.-North Korea talks in Vietnam, Trump defended the economic embargoes the North Korean leader has condemned following the Hanoi summit.
"We want sanctions to remain in place," Trump said, adding he has the "option" of increasing pressure but decided against the idea.
"I didn't want to do that because of my relationship with Kim Jong Un. I didn't want to do that. I didn't think it was necessary," he said Thursday at the Oval Office.
Trump also voiced optimism about future meetings with North Korea.
"I really believe something very significant is going to happen," he said. "There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen. Things could happen. You could work out, step-by-step, pieces. But at this moment, we're talking about the big deal. The big deal is we have to get rid of the nuclear weapons."
As Trump suggested incremental steps could culminate in a big deal and that North Korea has "tremendous potential," Moon credited the U.S. president for his North Korea diplomacy, and said the Hanoi summit was not a "disappointment" but part of a longer process.
"We saw a significant reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula," Moon told Trump, adding there is "no daylight" in the "great collaboration" between the two countries. "This dramatic turnaround is the culmination of your strong leadership."
Moon, who recently visited an area of South Korea hit by forest fires, also thanked United States Forces Korea for providing assistance during the natural disaster.
Trump said civic and humanitarian exchange between the two Koreas is a welcome move, but it is too early to discuss the reopening of a jointly operated factory park in North Korea.
"If the time is right, [the United States] will support" the reopening, Trump said as Moon listened.
The U.S. president said trade ties with South Korea have improved and thanked Seoul for "military purchases."
Trump also said he is open to a trilateral dialogue with Kim and Moon.
It's up to Kim, he said, adding, "President Moon will do what's necessary."