By Michael Hernandez and Safvan Allahverdi
Russia's help is "very important" to reign in North Korea's rogue nuclear and ballistic missile programs, President Donald Trump said Friday.
During a telephone call Thursday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said the "primary point was to talk about North Korea, because we would love to have his help on North Korea.”
A day later, he spoke to reporters at the White House. "China is helping. Russia is not helping," he said. "We're going to see what happens with North Korea. We hope it works out."
The call was initiated by the U.S, the Kremlin said, adding that Trump and Putin agreed to continue talks going forward.
South Korea on Wednesday invited North Korea to engage in talks without preconditions.
Unification Minister Cho Myung-gyon's comments in a speech echoed those of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who called for negotiations without Pyongyang first committing to ending its nuclear program the day prior.
The dropping of any conditions before embarking on talks has led to speculation South Korea and the U.S. could be adopting a new approach after years of Pyongyang's defiance of UN resolutions.
The apparent change came nearly two weeks after North Korea said it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking anywhere on the U.S. mainland.
Among those present for Cho’s speech was the Chinese ambassador. President Moon Jae-in is currently visiting Beijing to meet China's President Xi Jinping.
China is the North's main backer and Xi has indicated he would welcome any move toward regional dialogue.
Later Wednesday, Russia welcomed Tillerson’s comments as “much better than the confrontational rhetoric that we have heard so far.”
The White House later clarified that Trump has not changed position on North Korea, although the administration does not oppose Tillerson's efforts to initiate talks.
But Tillerson on Friday distanced himself somewhat from his earlier remarks and said North Korea has to stop its threatening behavior before talks could begin between Washington and Pyongyang.
“Apart from that step, there are no preconditions for talks, nor will we accept pre-conditions from North Korea or others,” Tillerson said in a meeting at the UN Security Council on North Korea’s nuclear programs.
He reiterated the U.S. is considering "all options" to defend itself but said “we do not seek, nor do we want, war with North Korea. The United States will use all necessary measures to defend itself against North Korean aggression, but our hope remains that diplomacy will produce a resolution."
Tillerson also criticized China for its oil supplies to North Korea and Russia for using North Korean laborers, and urged both nations to increase pressure on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, and to go beyond full implementation of UN sanctions.
Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono urged the international community to maximize pressure on North Korea "by all means available."
Kono told the Security Council assets of 19 North Korean entities will be frozen by his country, adding that all other UN members must introduce or strengthen sanctions against Pyongyang.
North Korean Ambassador Ja Song-nam told world leaders Tillerson’s remarks were “a desperate measure plotted by the U.S. being terrified by the incredible might of our Republic that has successfully achieved the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”
He said N. Korea does not pose a threat to any state, as long as its interests were not infringed upon