Donald Trump said North Korea had a bright economic future if the two countries made a deal, but did not have any economic future with nuclear weapons.
In his first major public appearance since returning from his summit with Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, the US president said America’s relationship with the secretive country seemed to be “very, very strong".
“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,” he told an audience at a Conservative Political Action Conference.
The second meeting between the US president and the North Korean leader was cut short after they failed to reach a deal on the extent of sanctions relief the country would get in exchange for steps to give up its nuclear programme.
The United States and North Korea have said they intend to continue talks, but have not said when a next round might take place.
While some credited Mr Trump for refusing to be drawn into a bad deal, he was criticised for earlier praising Kim’s leadership and saying he accepted his assertion that he had not been aware of how American student Otto Warmbier, who died after 17 months in a North Korean prison, had been treated.
Mr Trump said: “I’m in such a horrible position because in one way, I have to negotiate and in the other way, I love Mr and Mrs Warmbier. And I love Otto. And it’s a very delicate balance. He was a special young man and to see what happened was so bad – was so bad.
"And a lot of what I do with respect to North Korea, and any success that we hopefully have – and we’ve had a lot, given no credit. They don’t remember that in the last days of the Obama administration, rockets were flying all over the place".
In what was the longest speech of his presidency, Mr Trump touched on a range of red-meat issues in front of a receptive audience.
Mr Trump predicted an even "bigger" win in the 2020 presidential election, calling Democratic presidential candidates as “maniacs” and accused their party of supporting “extreme late term abortion.”
The president was back in his comfort zone with his most vocal allies, appearing on stage cracking jokes after a bruising week in which his former lawyer’s explosive testimony to Congress dominated headlines at home and his summit with Kim Jong-un came to nothing.
Looking ahead to his 2020 re-election campaign, Mr Trump attacked Democratic candidates, saying he shouldn’t have referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren, as “Pocahontas” so early on in the election cycle.
“I should’ve saved the Pocahontas thing for another year because I’ve destroyed her political career and now I won’t get a chance to run against her and I would’ve loved it,” Mr Trump told the laughing crowd. “I don’t want to knock out all the good stuff and end up with somebody that’s actually got talent.”
Mr Trump also invited Hayden Williams, a conservative activist, on stage as he announced he will be signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want to receive federal grants.
The 26-year-old was reportedly attacked on California’s UC-Berkeley campus while he was attempting to recruit students to his conservative activist group.
The president also renewed criticism of the Federal Reserve and said the US central bank’s tight monetary policy was contributing to a strong dollar and hurting the United States’ competitiveness.
"We have a gentleman that likes a very strong dollar at the Fed," Mr Trump said at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland. "I want a strong dollar, but I want a dollar that’s great for our country not a dollar that is so strong that it is prohibitive for us to be dealing with other nations."