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US could sell Seoul billions of dollars of arms amid tensions
[WASHINGTON] US President Donald Trump on Monday told his South Korean counterpart Washington was willing to approve arms sales worth "many billions of dollars" to Seoul following Pyongyang's test of what it said was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.
President Trump "provided his conceptual approval for the purchase of many billions of dollars' worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea," said the White House, without providing details of any specific new contracts.
The United States sold arms worth nearly US$5 billion to South Korea between 2010 and 2016, according to an analysis by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
South Korea was the fourth biggest buyer of US arms in that period, behind Saudi Arabia, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Both leaders "underscored the grave threat that North Korea's latest provocation poses to the entire world," and "agreed to maximise pressure on North Korea using all means at their disposal," according to a readout of the call.
The White House statement also confirmed an earlier announcement by Seoul that the United States would lift restrictions on South Korean missile payload capabilities.
Seoul was previously restricted to a maximum warhead weight of 500 kilograms on its ballistic missiles, according to a bilateral agreement with the United States signed in 2001.
The United States on Monday launched a bid at the UN Security Council to quickly slap the "strongest possible measures" on North Korea in response to its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, but China and Russia argued that diplomatic talks were needed to address the crisis.