Having called North Korea’s leader a ‘maniac‘, a ‘bad dude‘, mocked him as ‘short and fat‘, and referred to him repeatedly as ‘rocket man‘, President Trump told The Wall Street Journal that “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.“
Mr. Kim is hardly innocent in the exchanges as he previously warned he would “tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” referring to Mr. Trump.
In a wide-ranging interview, Trump suggested he has developed a positive relationship with North Korea’s leader despite their mutual public insults, signaling a possible new openness to diplomacy after months of escalating tensions over the rogue state’s nuclear program.
“I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”
Asked if he’s spoken with Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump said: ”I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.”
Mr. Trump framed his own comments as part of a broader strategy.
“You’ll see that a lot with me,” he said about combative tweets, “and then all of the sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You could give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.”
As WSJ notes, it’s been a decade since the U.S. engaged in formal talks with North Korean officials. Those “six-party talks” over North Korea’s nuclear ambition, which included South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, stalled in 2009 in disputes about North Korean nuclear and missile activity.
Since then, diplomats say, there have been messages transmitted back and forth through unofficial channels, including “Track 2” talks in which former U.S. officials and Korea experts have met informally with North Korean officials. But those talks don’t amount to official diplomatic communications. In October, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, without elaborating, that “we have lines of communication to Pyongyang—we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout.”
Mr. Trump has vacillated between seeming open to – and even eager for – diplomacy with North Korea, and dismissing the need or value for it, telling Mr. Tillerson that he is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”
In the interview, Mr. Trump praised China for help pressuring North Korea to end its nuclear problem, while adding “they can do much more.”
Interestingly, as Trump appeared to extend an olive branch of diplomacy – perhaps in reaction to China threats on US Treasury purchases – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “shrewd and mature” and had won the latest standoff with the West over his nuclear and missile programs.
“I think that Mr Kim Jong Un has obviously won this round. He has completed his strategic task: he has a nuclear weapon, he has missiles of global reach, up to 13,000 km, which can reach almost any point of the globe,” Putin told Russian journalists at a televised meeting.
“He is already a shrewd and mature politician,” Putin said.
All of which follows ‘seemingly successful’ talks between North and South Korea that enabled the North to attend the imminent Winter Olympics in Pyongyang, a move that Mr. Trump said “sends a good message to North Korea.”
Trump ended the interview in his typical hyperbolic manner, reflecting on the fact that Pyongyang may be trying to separate Washington and Seoul, saying that…
“The difference is I’m president, other people aren’t,” he said. “And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s lived.”