Trump demands credit for getting along with Kim Jong Un

President Donald Trump continued to defend his budding relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday, demanding credit for his role in making “initial steps toward a deal” by establishing a personal rapport with the young dictator during last week’s summit in Singapore.

“If President Obama (who got nowhere with North Korea and would have had to go to war with many millions of people being killed) had gotten along with North Korea and made the initial steps toward a deal that I have, the Fake News would have named him a national hero!” Trump tweeted.

Amid lingering skepticism over North Korea’s commitment to complete denuclearization in the wake of the Singapore summit, Trump has aggressively pushed the idea that Kim is sincere in his intentions and that the two leaders were able to develop a unique chemistry.

It’s a conviction South Korean officials share. South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-Nam said Monday in Washington that any diplomatic progress should be credited to the connection that Trump and Kim established through an “unprecedented top-down approach” to negotiations.

“The actors for this top-level diplomacy are completely different leaders as compared to the past,” Lim told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Moreover, the personal chemistry between them has been unique as well.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, asked about Trump’s praise for Kim, suggested the President is as willing to use carrots as he would be — if necessary — to use sticks. “If you try to play Trump or back out, there’s going to be a war and nobody wants war,” Graham told CNN.

Trump’s claims to a cozy relationship may reflect an effort to butter-up Kim “to make it easier to get a better deal,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN last week.

Indeed, the administration hopes that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo can build on that rapport to create substantial movement toward denuclearization.

But sources have told CNN that there is nothing to suggest that North Korea has begun destroying its missile launch sites, despite Trump’s repeated claims to the contrary and his declaration last week that the country is no longer a nuclear threat.

Harry Harris, Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to South Korea, said last week that North Korea continues to be a nuclear threat and that major military exercises should be paused to give Kim a chance to prove whether he is “serious.”

Trump announced in Singapore that the US would suspend “war games” with South Korea and Japan, taking Seoul, Tokyo, lawmakers and parts of the US military by surprise.

Additionally, several US defense officials said that, so far, there is no indication that Kim has made good on his promise to return the remains of prisoners of war and soldiers declared missing in action during the Korean War — something Trump has repeatedly said the two leaders agreed upon during their meeting.

These officials also cautioned that a lengthy DNA verification process would be needed when and if any remains are returned to the US.

In South Korea, however, the prism is different. Discussions center less on Trump’s achievements or lack of them, or his failures to live up to his own word, and more on the possibilities his summit opened up — in particular his new relationship with Kim.

While critics continue to suggest that Trump failed to secure concrete concessions from North Korea — including guarantees related to verifiable irreversible denuclearization and ending human rights abuses — South Korean officials have publicly credited the US President for facilitating the signing of the Panmunjom declaration and the Singapore statement, despite questions over specific terms.

“President Trump has made an unprecedented strategic decision to meet face-to-face with the leader of the DPRK,” Vice Foreign Minister Lim said, noting that Trump accounted for cultural considerations in dealing with Kim by showing him “due respect” and treating “him as a leader of a state.”

[CNN]

Trump says he wants “my people” to sit at attention for him like people do for Kim Jong Un

President Trump declared in a spur-of-the-moment interview with “Fox and Friends” Friday morning that he wants people to sit at attention for him like they do for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Kim stands accused of leading a murderous regime that starves its own people. But Mr. Trump has heaped praise on Kim since meeting with him in Singapore, saying repeatedly that the two have “good chemistry.”

“Hey, he is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head,” Mr. Trump told Fox News’ Steve Doocy on the White House lawn Friday. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”

Pressed by a reporter about those remarks moments later, Mr. Trump said he was “kidding.”

“I’m kidding, you don’t understand sarcasm,” the president said.

The spur-of-the-moment White House lawn interview was, in the memory of those present, unprecedented.

Mr. Trump was later asked how he can mourn the death of American Otto Warmbier, who was held hostage in North Korea, while defending Kim’s disastrous human rights record.

“I don’t want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family,” Mr. Trump said. “I want to have a good relationship with North Korea. I want to have a good relationship with many countries.”

Those comments come after a different Fox News interview earlier this week, when the president also downplayed Kim’s human rights record.

“You know you call people sometimes killers, he is a killer. He’s clearly executing people,” Fox News’ Bret Baier told Mr. Trump.

“He’s a tough guy,” the president responded.

“Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have,” the president continued. “If you can do that at 27 years old, I mean that’s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he’s a very smart guy, he’s a great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.”

[CBS News]

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Trump Dodges When Confronted on Kim’s Brutality: ‘A Lot of Other People’ Have Done Bad Things Too

President Donald Trump sat down with Fox News’ Bret Baier for a one-on-one interview aboard Air Force One.

During the interview, the president praised “President for Life” Xi Jinping and pointed out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump also said he and the North Korean despot “understand each other.”

POTUS’s praise of Kim prompted Baier to ask why he would say such nice things about a “killer.”

“You were asked in the press conference a number of different times and in different ways about human rights and that you that call this relationship ‘really good’ and that he was ‘very talented person.’” Baier said.

Baier then continued on, “You call people sometimes killers. He is a killer. He’s executing people.”

Trump dodged trying to say North Korea was a “tough country” with “tough people.”

“You take it over from your father––I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have. If you can do that at 27 years old, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that,” Trump claimed, continuing to praise Kim. “So he’s a very smart guy. He’s a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.”

Baier then pressed further, adding, “He has still done some really bad things.”

“Yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things,” Trump said, dodging again. “I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”

It is also not the first time Trump has dodged questions from Fox News about cozying up to a killer. In February 2017, Trump sat down for a pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reillywhere he was asked about how he could be so friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putindespite the fact that he, too, has blood on his hands.

Trump dodged back then too, telling O’Reilly: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

[Mediaite]

Trump: I Won’t Admit It if the Kim Summit Turns Out to Be a Mistake, ‘I’ll Find Some Kind of an Excuse’

In what might’ve been an unusually frank moment with reporters, President Donald Trump said today that he’ll never admit it if it turns out his meeting with Kim Jong Un was a bad idea.

After Trump concluded his private meetings with Kim, he held a press conference in which he heaped praise on the “very talented” North Korean dictator. Trump also touted the document he and Kim signed regarding the future of their respective countries, even though the agreement doesn’t outline any specific framework for North Korea’s eventual denuclearization.

As Trump talked about why he trusts Kim to cooperate and disarm his country, he eventually made a candid admission — volunteering that even if he turns out to be wrong, he won’t say so.

“I may be wrong. I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”

[Mediaite]

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Trump: North Koreans love Kim

President Trump on Tuesday said the people of North Korea “love” the country’s leader Kim Jong Un despite previously condemning the regime’s human rights abuses.

“His country does love him,” Trump said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos following the historic summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore.

Trump said “you see the fervor” the North Koreans have for their leader.

“They’re gonna put it together, and I think they’re going to end up with a very strong country, and a country which has people  — that they’re so hard working, so industrious,” Trump said.

Stephanopoulos, however, pressed Trump’s reversal from his previous criticism over the oppressive regime that’s been accused of multiple human rights abuses.

“You say his people love him,” Stephanopoulos retorted. “Just a few months ago you accused him of starving his people.”

Trump said in January during the State of the Union address that North Korea has “more brutally oppressed its people than any regime on Earth.”

Stephanopoulos pressed the issue, saying Kim is a brutal dictator who runs a police state with labor camps and forced starvation.

“He’s assassinated members of his own family,” Stephanopoulos added. “How do you trust a killer like that?”

Trump said he can only judge Kim based on his interactions with him.

“I mean, this is what we have, and this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I met him, I’ve spoken with him, and I’ve met him,” Trump said.

Trump also noted that things can change in the relationship, saying, “Will I come back to you in a year and you’ll be interviewing me and I’ll say, ‘Gee, I made a mistake?’ That’s always possible.”

Trump said Kim “wants to do the right thing” and that begins with denuclearization.

“I mean, this is what we have, and this is where we are, and I can only tell you from my experience, and I met him, I’ve spoken with him, and I’ve met him,” Trump said.

Trump also noted that things can change in the relationship, saying, “Will I come back to you in a year and you’ll be interviewing me and I’ll say, ‘Gee, I made a mistake?’ That’s always possible.”

Trump said Kim “wants to do the right thing” and that begins with denuclearization.

“Now, with all of that being said, I can’t talk about — it doesn’t matter,” Trump added.

Trump said at a press conference following the summit that human rights abuses happen “in a lot of places” when he was asked if he would reverse his previous criticism of Kim’s regime.

“I believe it’s a rough situation over there,” Trump told reporters. “It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there.”

Trump blasts ‘haters & losers’ in typo-filled tweet from Singapore

President Trump addressed the “haters & losers” in a typo-filled tweet from Singapore ahead of his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“The fact that I am having a meeting is a major loss for the U.S., say the haters & losers,” Trump tweeted on Monday evening, just hours before the scheduled summit.

The president then addressed his successes with the rogue nuclear nation, proclaiming that the arrangement was a win for the US.

“We have our hostages, testing, research and all missle launches have stoped [sic],” he added. “And these pundits, who have called me wrong from the beginning, have nothing else they can say!”

Critics have charged that Trump meeting a dictator could send the wrong message on human rights and other issues — especially after the president’s contentious meeting at the G7 in Canada.

But Trump concluded, “We will be fine!”

[New York Post]

Trump, Giuliani hint at release of Americans detained in North Korea

President Donald Trump hinted late Wednesday that three Americans detained in North Korea could soon be released as he prepares for a potential summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“As everybody is aware,” Trump tweeted, “the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released from a North Korean Labor camp, but to no avail. Stay tuned!”

Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, appeared to confirm the news Thursday morning during a FOX News appearance in which he remarked: “We’ve got Kim Jong Un impressed enough to release three prisoners today.”

The developments follow last week’s historic meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, earlier said that releasing the Americans — Kim Hak-song, Kim Dong-chul and Kim Sang-duk, who also goes by Tony Kim — would be a “demonstration of their sincerity” in the lead-up to the U.S.-North Korea summit.

Relatives of one of the men said they are “hopeful” amid the unconfirmed reports that they could soon be released.

South Korean media reports quoted a local activist as saying North Korea had relocated the trio from a labor camp to a hotel on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

“We cannot confirm the validity of these reports,” a State Department official said.

[NBC News]

Reality

Two of the three prisoners were only jailed after Mr Trump’s inauguration last year and amid an escalating feud between the Republican and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Trump Calls Kim Jong Un ‘Very Open,’ ‘Very Honorable’

As President Donald Trump says he’s planning for talks with North Korea, he called the country’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, “very open” and “very honorable.”

“Kim Jong Un was, he really has been very open, and I think very honorable from everything we’re seeing,” Trump told reporters in the White House Tuesday. “Now, a lot of promises have been made by North Korea over the years, but they’ve never been in this position.”

Trump made the remarks as he met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who had just participated in an official White House welcoming ceremony on the second day of his U.S. visit.

“We have been very, very tough on maximum pressure, we have been very tough on, as you know, trade, we’ve been very, very tough at the border, sanctions have been the toughest we’ve ever imposed on any country, and we think it’ll be a great thing for North Korea, it’ll be a great thing for the world, so we’ll see where that all goes and maybe it’ll be wonderful and maybe it won’t, and if it’s not gonna be fair and reasonable and good, I will, unlike past administrations, I will leave the table,” Trump said.

The administration has said it intends for a U.S.-North Korea summit to occur near the end of May or in June.

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump Mistakenly Claims North Korea Has Agreed to “Denuclearization”

President Donald Trump took yet another shot at the media on Sunday, this time aiming his fire toward “sleepy eyes” Chuck Todd from NBC. A day after he criticized the New York Times and the Washington Post, the president was mad Sunday morning after Todd said, according to Trump, “we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing.” The truth, Trump went on to write on Twitter, was exactly the opposite. “We haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!” Trump said.

Does Trump know something the rest of us don’t? Or is he just confused about what denuclearization means and what North Korea has said? On Friday, North Korea said it would suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests before a planned summit with South Korea. But North Korean leader Kim Jong Un never actually pledged to get rid of the country’s existing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Analysts have struck a cautious tone over the promises precisely because North Korea has made similar promises in the past and they never amounted to much. “North Korea has a long history of raising the issue of denuclearization and has committed to freeze its nuclear weapons programs in the past. We all remember how those pledges and commitments went down over past decades,” Nam Sung-wook, a professor of North Korean Studies at Korea University in Seoul, told Reuters.

Trump’s tweet is also a reminder that North Korea’s Kim often means a very different thing when he refers to denuclearization than South Korea or the Western world in general. Whereas the United States and South Korea have long said denuclearization means dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program, North Korea’s Kim has talked about denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula.

When Trump criticized Todd, he appears to have been referring to this segment:

With his response, Trump makes it clear he doesn’t think he has given up anything to North Korea seemingly without realizing that sitting down for talks in and of itself is a victory for Kim. With his seeming concessions, Kim will be heading to the summits with a recognition from global powers that North Korea is a nuclear nation, which is something the country has long wanted. As one analyst told Axios on Saturday, the issues North Korea says it is willing to discuss, “amounts to “all the trappings of a ‘responsible’ nuclear weapons state (which is what they ultimately wanted to be accepted as).”

In a second tweet Sunday, Trump made clear he knows the North Korean nuclear issue is a long way from being resolved, in a rare note of caution for the commander in chief. “We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t—only time will tell,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

[Slate]

Trump attacks Wall Street Journal for quoting him accurately on North Korea, as audio confirms

This weekend, the White House has been lashing out at the Wall Street Journal, quibbling over a quote President Donald Trump made about his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The Journal reported that Trump said, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea,” while the White House contends that Trump said “I’d probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted out Saturday evening that the Journal’s reporting was “fake news.”

Though the Journal had released its audio the day before, Sanders then released the “official” White House audio at midnight Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted his own attacks about the interview, claiming the Journal “stated falsely” that he has a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.

But the Journal stands by its reporting, as well as the transcription provided by an independent transcription service. Neither version of the audio provides any audible or contextual indication that Trump said “I’d” in a line of comments about foreign relationships that were otherwise not conditional. Moreover, the transcript of the interview shows that the Journal’s own reporters clearly heard “I” — not “I’d” — and asked a follow-up question, which the President refused to answer:

TRUMP: …I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised.

WSJ: Just to be clear, you haven’t spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea—

TRUMP: I don’t want to comment on it—I don’t want to comment, I’m not saying I have or I haven’t. But I just don’t—

WSJ: Some people would see your tweets, which are sometimes combative towards Kim Jong Un…

TRUMP: Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.

It’s unclear exactly what this quibbling is designed to accomplish, though it certainly draws more attention — not less — to the possibility that the White House has a relationship with North Korea of a different nature than it has previously indicated.

It may, however, also be a form of retaliation against the Journal for something totally unrelated. The Journal published its story about Trump’s Kim Jong Un comments on Thursday, then on Friday published a report that shortly before the 2016 election, the Trump Organization paid an adult film star, Stephanie Clifford (stage name Stormy Daniels), $130,000 to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. It was only after this report that the White House began criticizing the Journal’s reporting on the relationship with North Korea.

[ThinkProgress]

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