"North Korea is a country ruled by a cult" - Trump

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By Catherine Hardy  with REUTERS
"North Korea is a country ruled by a cult" - Trump

The US president has issued a stark warning to the leader of North Korea.

Donald Trump has urged Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons programme, saying it is “not making you safer, they are putting your regime in grave danger.”

“North Korea is a country ruled by a cult,” Trump said in a speech interrupted several times by applause.

Trump was wrapping up a visit to South Korea with a speech to the National Assembly in Seoul.

What did Trump say?

In a wide-ranging address that lodged specific accusations of human rights abuses against Pyongyang, Trump used some of his toughest language yet against North Korea.

He called on countries around the world to isolate Pyongyang by denying it “any form of support, supply or acceptance.”

“Do not underestimate us and do not try us,” Trump said.

He mostly went on the attack.

However, he did promise a “path to a much better future” for North Korea if it stopped developing ballistic missiles and agreed to “complete, verifiable and total denuclearisation” – something Pyongyang has vowed never to do.

“We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not be intimidated,” he told South Korean lawmakers. “We will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here, on this ground we fought and died to secure.”

“The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens it with nuclear devastation,” Trump said.

A visit to the DMZ

The speech came after Trump’s attempt to make an unannounced visit to the heavily-fortified border separating North and South Korea was aborted.

Officials say heavy fog prevented his helicopter from landing.

A White House spokesperson described Trump as “disappointed and frustrated” at having to abandon the trip.

A visit to the DMZ would have the potential to further inflame tensions with North Korea.

The trip to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) on the final day of a 24-hour visit to ally Seoul.

Next stop is China.

A “dystopian” picture

Trump painted a dystopian picture of North Korea, saying people are suffering in “gulags” and some bribed government officials to work as “slaves” overseas rather than live under the government at home.

However, he offered no evidence to back the claims.

The insight

Trump’s return to harsh language against North Korea comes a day after he appeared to dial back some of his bellicose rhetoric that has fueled fears of the risk of military conflict.

On Tuesday, Trump offered a diplomatic opening to Pyongyang to “make a deal”.

However, he did not spell out a new approach to force Pyongyang to abandon its missile and weapons programmes.

What has North Korea said?

Nothing immediately. However, the country has made it clear it has little interest in negotiations at least until it develops a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

US officials say this may be only months away.

Kim, for his part, has called Trump “mentally deranged.”