- In his first interview since the collapse of his summit with Kim Jon Un, President Donald Trump praised Kim as “very sharp” and a “real leader.”
- Talking to Sean Hannity of Fox News – who went with Trump to their summit in Vietnam – the president asked “Why shouldn’t I like him?”
- Trump announced the premature end of the summit on Thursday, which concluded without the leaders signing a deal on denuclearization.
- The president told Hannity that he hopes for further discussions with North Korea.
President Donald Trump praised Kim Jong Un and defended his relationship with him in his first interview since a summit between the two leaders collapsed.
In the interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump outlined his reasons for walking away from the talks in Hanoi, Vietnam, where the sides failed to reach an agreement on the denuclearization of the rogue state.
During the summit the president had come under fire for renewing his praise for Kim, and accepting Kim’s assurance that he did not know about the maltreatment of US student Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after being released from North Korean captivity in a coma in 2017.
Trump tells Hannity North Korea only "certain areas" denuclearized, while he was requesting full denuclearization.
Trump also adds he didn't want to lift sanctions without a "real program" pic.twitter.com/7FHtTyolxA
— Salvador Hernandez (@SalHernandez) March 1, 2019
Trump in the interview described Kim as a “character.”
Hannity, a staunch ally of Trump, accompanied the president to Hanoi for the visit.
“And he’s a real personality and he’s very smart. He’s sharp as you can be, and he’s a real leader, and he’s pretty mercurial. I don’t say that necessarily in a bad way, but he’s a pretty mercurial guy.”
He said that, despite the breakdown of the talks, his chemistry with Kim remained strong.
“Again, the relationship is very good. He likes me. I like him. Some people say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t like him.’ I said, ‘Why shouldn’t I like him?'”
“I like him. We get along great. We’ll see what happens.”
Trump has made no secret of his admiration for strongman leaders since taking office, most notoriously Russian President Vladimir Putin, but also Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Philippines’Rodrigo Duterte.
As tensions with North Korea escalated after Trump took office in 2017 and North Korea launched a series of ballistic missile tests, Trump taunted Kim as “rocket man.” But as he sought to bring North Korea to the negotiating table his tone shifted and he has since heaped praise on the dictator.
“No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters,” he continued.
Even top Republicans have questioned Trump’s praise for Kim, who has been accused of ordering the assassination and execution of a political opponents, including his own half-brother, and presides over a state with one of the worst human rights records on earth.
Former Republican Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum in an interview with CNN Thursday described Trump’s remarks on Warmbier’s death as “reprehensible.”
“He gave cover, as you said, to a leader who knew very well what was going on with Otto Warmbier. And again, I don’t understand why the President does this. I am disappointed, to say the least, that he did it.”
Trump told Hannity that he remained hopeful about the possibility of a future deal with North Korea, which had demanded an end to US sanctions at the summit.
“But we get along really well,” Trump remarked of Kim. “He’s a different kind of a guy, and I just said, look, this isn’t going to be working. So, I have feeling something down the line will happen. And it will happen, it will be good.”
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