Trump claims of 'respect' from North Korea appear thin


File: US president Donald Trump has touched nerves with remarks that the South Korean peninsula "used to be part of China".

PHOENIX, United States – US President Donald Trump said Tuesday his aggressive rhetoric towards North Korea is bearing fruit and that Kim Jong-Un has started to "respect" the United States.

"Some people said it was too strong. It's not strong enough," he told a gathering of thousands of supporters at a campaign style rally in Phoenix, Arizona. "But Kim Jong-Un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much."

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"And maybe, probably not, but maybe something positive can come about. They won't tell you that. But maybe something positive can come about," he added.

His comments echoed those of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who earlier in the day acknowledged Pyongyang's recent "restraint" in not carrying out fresh nuclear or missile tests in response to tough new UN sanctions.

Kim orders North Korea missile production boost

While Trump and his secretetary saw positive signs in North Korea's recent restraint,  North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un ordered stepped-up production of rocket engines and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nosecones.

Under Kim, Pyongyang has made rapid strides in its ballistic missile technology, which it is banned from pursuing under United Nations resolutions that have slapped it with seven sets of sanctions.

Last month it carried out two successful ICBM launches, overseen by Kim and apparently bringing most of its sworn enemy the United States into range for the first time.

READ: North Korea lashes out at US over UN push to enforce sanctions

Tillerson said that he is pleased to see the regime in Pyongyang demonstrating some level of restraint, something that had not been seen before, adding that "talks" may be possible "in the near future."

Tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies soared last month after Pyongyang tested two long-range missiles that appeared to bring US cities within its range.

Trump vowed to respond with "fire and fury," raising fears of a devastating regional conflict, and the UN Security Council scrambled to impose new punitive measures on the North.

Kim's regime later postponed a threat to fire missiles towards the US Pacific island territory of Guam, and Washington said it would be open to dialogue if Pyongyang were to take steps to calm tensions.

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