North Korea has no economic future if it has nuclear weapons: Trump

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump meet for the second North Korea-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in this photo released on March 1, 2019 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that North Korea had a bright economic future if the two countries made a deal, but did not have any economic future with nuclear weapons.

"North Korea has an incredible, brilliant economic future if they make a deal, but they don't have any economic future if they have nuclear weapons," Trump said at a Conservative Political Action Conference.

He added that the relationship with North Korea seemed to be "very, very strong."

In Vietnam this week, the second meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended without a deal on sanctions relief North Korea would get in exchange for steps to give up its nuclear program.

The United States and North Korea have said they intend to continue talks, but have not specified when.

Some credited Trump for refusing to be drawn into a bad deal. Others criticized him for earlier praising Kim's leadership and accepting his assertion that he had been unaware of the treatment given to an American student who died after 17 months a North Korean prison.

The United Nations and the United States ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea when it conducted repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests in 2017. Analysts believe the country has 20 to 60 nuclear warheads which could threaten the U.S. mainland if fitted to its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Washington has demanded North Korea's complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization before sanctions can be lifted, a position Pyongyang has denounced as "gangster like."

Separately on Saturday, the Pentagon confirmed the United States and South Korea had agreed to conclude joint large scale spring military exercises and instead will adapt their training programs.

According to a statement, acting Pentagon Chief Patrick Shanahan spoke with his South Korea counterpart on Saturday.

The two "made clear that the Alliance decision to adapt our training program reflected our desire to reduce tension and support our diplomatic efforts to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a final, fully verified manner," the Pentagon said.

The statement added the pair "agreed to maintain firm military readiness through newly designed Command Post exercises and revised field training programs."

U.S. officials have long said the scope of the spring exercises, known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, would be reduced. Reuters and other news outlets reported on Friday that such an announcement would be taking place.

The Foal Eagle field exercise, which usually involves thousands of combined ground, air, naval and special operations troops, takes place every spring. Key Resolve is a computer-simulated exercise.

To encourage talks, the United States and South Korea have suspended a number of military exercises since the first summit last year between Kim and Trump.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Idrees Ali, David Shepardson and Katanga Johnson; Editing by David Gregorio)

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