DONALD Trump said he would "be honoured" to meet with brutal North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un amid heightened tensions over the rogue regime's nuclear weapons program.
"If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honoured to do it," President
Trump said in an interview with Bloomberg News. "If it's under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that."
North Korea has become the most urgent national security threat and foreign policy issue facing Mr Trump, with US Secretary of State last week hinting North Korea could be added to the state sponsor of terrorism list.
"Most political people would never say that," Mr Trump said of his willingness to meet with the reclusive Kim, "but I'm telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him. We have breaking news."
The US president's comments come a day after North Korea test-launched a short-range ballistic missile, in defiance of UN sanctions and international condemnation.
The North Korean leader - who has had his own family members executed by flamethrowers and anti-aircraft weapons - has never met with a foreign leader since taking charge after his father's death in 2011 and hasn't left his isolated country.
NORTH KOREA HINTS AT NUKE TEST
North Korea suggested on Monday it will continue its nuclear weapons tests and will bolster its nuclear force "to the maximum" in a "consecutive and successive way at any moment" in the face of what it calls US aggression and hysteria, Reuters reports.
Mr Trump has said a "major, major conflict" with North Korea is possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, while China said last week the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control.
In a show of force, the US has sent the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula to join drills with South Korea to counter a series of threats of destruction from North Korea.
"Now that the US is kicking up the overall racket for sanctions and pressure against the DPRK, pursuant to its new DPRK policy called 'maximum pressure and engagement', the DPRK will speed up at the maximum pace the measure for bolstering its nuclear deterrence," a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by its official KCNA news agency.
North Korea's "measures for bolstering the nuclear force to the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership," the spokesman said.
TRUMP CALLS KIM A 'SMART COOKIE'
Mr Trump called Kim "a pretty smart cookie" in an interview aired in the US on Sunday.
"At a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie," Mr Trump told CBS News.
"But we have a situation that we just cannot let - we cannot let what's been going on for a long period of years continue."
Mr Trump's comments have sparked outrage among South Korean media outlets, which warned of a "Trump risk" threatening the alliance between Washington and Seoul.
The two countries are bound by a defence pact and 28,500 US troops are stationed in the South.
But the new US president has said in recent interviews that Seoul should pay for a "billion-dollar" US missile defence system being deployed in the South to guard against threats from the nuclear-armed North.
He has also pushed for renegotiation of what he called a "horrible" bilateral free trade pact that went into effect five years ago, calling it an "unacceptable ... deal made by Hillary".
The remarks stunned Seoul, with South Korean politicians immediately rejecting his push for payment for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) battery.
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