WASHINGTON — Four North Korean defectors have told VOA in video messages intended for U.S. President Donald Trump what they want him to do and say during his visit to South Korea.
The messages were delivered ahead of Trump's departure Friday morning for a 12-day, five-nation tour which is expected to focus on tensions over North Korea's its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. He is scheduled to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul on Nov. 7.
North Korea is expected to dominate their conversation at a time when recent polls show Americans consider North Korea to be the most immediate threat to the United States.
WATCH: North Korean Defectors Have Message for Trump Ahead of Asian Visit
“If [Trump’s] coming to strengthen Korea-U.S. relations, he’s welcome, but if he’s coming to foment a war between the two Koreas, I cannot welcome him,” said Kim Young Soo, a defector and former soldier who arrived in South Korea in 2006. “As a head of state, I think he could be more discreet when talking about a war.”
The defectors want Trump to persuade China, Pyongyang’s only remaining ally, to stop repatriating North Koreans who take refuge there.
“While seeking freedom, they are put at risk of being captured by Chinese authorities and being forcibly returned to North Korea,” said Ji Seong-ho, a defector. “They may even face death. So I sincerely would like to ask President Trump to urge China’s Xi Jinping to stop repatriation of North Koreans so that they can attain their dreams of freedom.”
And they want him to keep up the pressure on North Korea with sanctions.
“It’ll take an insurgency against the regime to bring about a revolution,” said Ri Sun Kyong, who arrived to South Korea in 2002. “Every single country in the world should not help (North Korea) in any way. Instead, they should increase pressure so an insurgency takes place.”
Trump, who has signed a sweeping executive order increasing U.S. authority to sanction companies that finance trade with North Korea, has said all options are on the table in dealing with Kim.
Amid the leaders’ war of words — Trump has said if Pyongyang launches an attack on the U.S. or its allies, there is “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” and Kim has said, “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire” — the Trump administration has also been pushing other countries to end or curtail their diplomatic ties to North Korea.