Fri. 8:26 a.m.: Trump wants to keep NKorea sanctions, won’t rule out summit

President Donald Trump meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Thursday in the Oval Office of the White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the U.S. wants to keep economic sanctions in place to pressure North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, but isn’t ruling out a third summit with Kim Jong Un or taking steps to ease food or other shortages in the repressive nation.

“We want sanctions to remain in place,” Trump said Thursday at the White House during a meeting with South Korea President Moon Jae-in. “I think that sanctions right now are at a level that’s a fair level.”

Moon, for his part, has called for an easing of sanctions, including those holding back joint economic projects between North and South Korea. Trump said he would favor easing those sanctions at the right time but added: “This isn’t the right time.”

He said he was open to discussing smaller steps, such as helping to ease North Korea’s humanitarian problems, but that, in general, the U.S. wants sanctions to remain.

“There are various smaller deals that maybe could happen,” Trump said.

“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.”

Negotiations on Pyongyang’s nuclear program appear to be stalled, and there is uncertainty over whether Kim is considering backing out of talks or restarting nuclear and missile tests. The Korean Central News Agency on Thursday said that at a party meeting on Wednesday, Kim stressed “self-reliance” in his country to “deal a telling blow to the hostile forces” that “go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring” North Korea “to its knees.”

Moon said it’s important to maintain the “momentum of dialogue” and express a positive outlook to the international community that a “third U.S.-North Korea summit” will be held.

“I’d like to express my high regard for how you have continued to express your trust towards Chairman Kim,” Moon said. “And also, you have made sure that North Korea does not deviate from the dialogue track.”

The United States and North Korea have accused each other of causing the Hanoi summit’s breakdown. But they haven’t formally abandoned diplomacy. Moon, a liberal who facilitated U.S.-North Korea diplomacy last year, told Trump that he would push for an inter-Korean summit with Kim, according to Moon’s office. Moon met Kim three times last year.