President Donald Trump was referring to his South Korean counterpart on Saturday evening when he cryptically recounted a telephone call he’d taken about opening talks with North Korea.
The President’s remarks came during an off-camera speech he delivered at the Gridiron dinner, a white-tie event for journalists.
“By the way, they called up a couple of days ago and said we would like to talk,” Trump said during his remarks. “And I said, so would we, but you have to de-nuke. You have to de-nuke. So let’s see what happens. Let’s see what happens.”
On Saturday evening and in the days after, White House officials declined to elaborate further on the remarks, leading to confusion about whether Trump was referring to North Korea, the country he’s repeatedly pressed to abandon its nuclear program.
But on Tuesday morning, a US official said Trump was referring to a call he’d taken earlier in the week from South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“The President was referencing his March 1 telephone call with President Moon,” the official said.
During that call, Moon “briefed President Trump on developments regarding North Korea and inter-Korean talks,” according to the White House.
“President Trump and President Moon noted their firm position that any dialogue with North Korea must be conducted with the explicit and unwavering goal of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization,” the White House said.
Moon and Trump have been at odds over the prospect of talks with North Korea. Trump has suggested that Pyongyang must first commit to getting rid of its nuclear capabilities, while Moon has moved forward with starting talks immediately.
On Tuesday, South Korea announced it had agreed to hold the first summit with North Korea in more than a decade. The talks are due to begin in late April at the Panmunjom Peace House in the demilitarized zone.
North Korea told the South Koreans it would freeze its nuclear and missile testing “while dialogue is ongoing,” according to South Korea’s special envoy to North Korea Chung Eui-yong.