UPDATE : 2018.9.25 TUE 18:42
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Trump: Koreas have my 'blessing' to end war

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday offered his "blessing" to the Koreas to end their decades-long war.

Trump appeared to speak to reports the two Koreas could discuss a peace treaty to formally end the 1953-53 Korean War when their leaders meet for a summit next week.

"They do have my blessing to discuss the end to the war," he said at a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "People don't realize the Korean War has not ended. It's going on right now. And they are discussing an end to the war. So, subject to a deal, they would certainly have my blessing. And they do have my blessing to discuss that."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are set to meet on April 27 to talk about denuclearizing the North and bringing peace to the peninsula.

The two sides have technically been at war since the three-year conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Trump said five different locations are being looked at for his own meeting with Kim. But the U.S. is not among them, he indicated by shaking his head in response to a reporter's question.

"That will be taking place probably in early June or a little before that -- assuming things go well," he said. "It's possible things won't go well and we won't have the meetings, and we'll just continue to go along this very strong path that we've taken."

Possible sites for the summit include Mongolia, Sweden, Switzerland and the demilitarized zone on the inter-Korean border, according to pundits.

Trump agreed to meet with Kim last month after South Korean officials conveyed the North Korean's desire to have a summit with the U.S. leader as soon as possible, along with his commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Tensions ran high last year as Trump and Kim exchanged bellicose rhetoric over North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, including its first tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile apparently capable of striking the mainland U.S.

The Trump administration responded by increasing economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation for the regime, both unilaterally and through the United Nations Security Council.

"We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea," Trump said. "I really believe there's a lot of good will. We'll see what happens, as I always say. Because ultimately, it's the end result that counts."

The U.S. wants to see a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. But questions remain as to whether the communist regime will agree to those terms, and what it could demand in return.

Matthew Pottinger, senior director for Asian Affairs on the White House National Security Council, warned the North against trying to buy time to advance its weapons programs while negotiations are under way.

Pyongyang has been accused of cheating on past denuclearization-for-aid agreements that involved the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

"If there is any intention by the North to merely buy time for this program, there will be an unhappy result, I would say," Pottinger told reporters in Florida.

The issue of the three Americans detained in North Korea will also feature prominently in bilateral talks, the official said, calling it "something that is on the minds of all Americans serving in this administration right now."

"I'm not going to talk about how that factors in, but you can be assured that it factors very much into future interactions between our government and the North Korean government," he said.

hwi won  edt@koreapost.com

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