Trump Administration Downplays Reopening of North Korea-South Korea Hotline

By Susan Jones | January 3, 2018 | 8:49 AM EST

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's state news agency on September 16, 2017. (Photo: KCNA)

( - Press reports say officials from North Korea and South Korea spoke twice Wednesday on a hotline in the demilitarized zone for the first time since February 2016.

North Korea announced on Tuesday that it would resume talks, after dictator Kim Jong-un indicated he might send North Korean athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The Trump White House played down the resumption of talks between North and South:

"Look, our policy on North Korea hasn't changed at all," White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. "The United States is committed and will still continue to put maximum pressure on North Korea to change and make sure that it denuclearizes the peninsula. Our goals are the same, and we share that with South Korea, but our policy and our process has not changed in this."

Later on Tuesday, President Trump once again taunted the North Korean dictator with a tweet: "North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" Trump wrote.

Trump's critics pounced on the tweet as immature and dangerous.

A U.S. State Department spokesman on Tuesday noted that the United States is a close ally of South Korea, and if South Korea wants to speak with officials in the North, "that is certainly their choice," Heather Nauert said.

"But we aren't going to necessarily believe that Kim Jong-un is sincere and is credible in his talks," she added.

And speaking to reporters at the United Nations on Tuesday, Ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States will not take the North-South talks seriously "if they don't do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea."

She called the North a "reckless regime." "We think we need to have them stop nuclear weapons, and they need to stop it now. So North Korea can talk with anyone they want, but the U.S. is not going to recognize it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have."

Haley also said if North Korea does conduct another nuclear test, as reports indicate it might, "We must bring even more measures to bear on the North Korean regime."

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