WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Yonhap) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump spoke by phone Friday and resolved to work together to address human rights abuses in North Korea, the White House said.
"The two leaders discussed the importance of improving the human rights situation in North Korea and underscored their commitment to work together on this issue," it said in a statement.
|A file photo shows President Moon Jae-in speaking with US President Donald Trump on Jan. 10. Cheong Wa Dae|
Later in the day, Trump met with a group of North Korean defectors at the White House and discussed the abuses they endured under Pyongyang's totalitarian regime, as well as their new lives outside of the North.
He also invited a defector, Ji Seong-ho, to his State of the Union address Tuesday and called out the North Korean regime for its human rights abuses.
Speaking with Moon, Trump wished him and the South Korean people a successful Winter Olympic Games, which kick off in PyeongChang this coming Friday, and "reiterated his commitment to addressing the trade imbalance between the two countries," the statement said.
Negotiations have been under way to amend a bilateral free trade agreement that took effect in 2012.
Moon expressed hope that the inter-Korean reconciliatory mood from the Olympics will help build peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Moon also thanked Trump for sending a US delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence to the Olympics, saying that he also hopes Pence's Korea visit will help the peace-building process, according to senior presidential press secretary Yoon Young-chan.
"Many countries were afraid of joining the PyeongChang Olympics even three or four weeks ago and considered canceling their participation, but now they are not afraid of participation at all," Yoon quoted Trump as saying in the 30-minute telephone talks.
Trump also said he will be "100 percent with South Korea" over the Olympics.
Moon again lauded Trump and his North Korea policy for helping set the tone for an "Olympics of peace" and bringing the North out to join the upcoming Olympics, the secretary said.
In a separate statement, the White House said Trump also spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and thanked him for Tokyo's "efforts to maintain international pressure on North Korea."
The Trump administration has led a "maximum pressure" campaign with growing economic and diplomatic sanctions to compel Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The two leaders agreed on the need to intensify that campaign, and Trump noted Japan's recent efforts to clamp down on North Korean attempts at sanctions evasion, according to the statement.