U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the United States is not looking for regime change in North Korea, appearing to extend another invitation to Pyongyang to return to denuclearization talks.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump again lumped North Korea and Iran together as he suggested the possibility of striking a deal with both.
"Iran can be a great country and North Korea can be a great country," he said. "They can be great. We are not looking for a regime change. We've learned that lesson a long time ago. They can be great countries. We'll see what happens, but there's a lot of talking going on right now. And I think a lot of it's going to be, and maybe all of it's going to happen in some very important deals."
The comments come as U.S.-North Korea negotiations have stalled since the no-deal summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February due to disagreement over how far the North will denuclearize in exchange for sanctions relief from the U.S.
The North Koreans have also made clear that they seek security guarantees from the U.S., which Trump appeared to address.
At another press availability at the White House earlier in the day, Trump also praised North Korea's economic potential and reiterated his belief that the North Koreans seek to tap into it.
"I think North Korea is a country with tremendous potential, and I think they're going to want to take advantage of it," Trump said in the middle of discussing tensions with Iran. "So we'll see what happens."
Trump and Kim agreed to resume working-level talks within several weeks when they held an impromptu meeting at the inter-Korean border on June 30.
But the talks have yet to take place amid renewed tensions over North Korea's recent short-range ballistic missile tests and Pyongyang's protests against South Korea-U.S. military drills.
Last week North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said her country's expectations for dialogue with the U.S. were "gradually disappearing" after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out North Korea's "rogue behavior."
Only days earlier North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho had labeled Pompeo "the diehard toxin of the U.S. diplomacy" due to his suggestion that all sanctions on North Korea would remain in place short of its denuclearization.
"We are being pushed to reexamine all the measures we have taken so far," Choe warned.
Trump insisted that the U.S.-North Korea relationship remains good and sought to stack up his accomplishments against those of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
"As you know, President Obama said that's going to be the hardest problem, and he said some very tough things about North Korea, that he thought it was going to be a problem that hasn't turned out to be that kind of a problem," he said. "Who knows what's going to happen, but the relationship is good. We'll see what happens." (Yonhap)