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Trump claims a ‘relationship’ with North’s Kim

Cryptic remark came in an interview with the Wall Street Journal

Jan 13,2018
Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump bragged about having a “very good relationship” with Kim Jong-un Thursday despite his past insults of the North Korean leader, describing himself as a “very flexible person” who can build rapport with someone “all of a sudden.”

The comment was made during an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which Trump said he had a great relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - and “probably” with Kim as well.

Asked whether he has ever spoken to Kim, Trump replied: “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.”

Trump has lobbed several angry put-downs at Kim on Twitter, writing last November: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend-and maybe someday that will happen.”

That came in response to Kim’s earlier statement labeling Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

“You see that a lot with me,” Trump said about his remarks, “and then all of a sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples... I’m a very flexible person.”

On his agreeing to Seoul’s suggestion to postpone joint military exercises until after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, which will kick off next month in South Korea’s northeastern province of Gangwon, Trump said it was “inappropriate” to hold the drills when millions of foreign visitors were arriving in the country. The decision did not send North Korea the wrong message that he was caving in, Trump said.

“I think it sends a good message to North Korea, not a bad message. I think it would be totally inappropriate to do that during the Olympics.”

Trump dismissed worries that North Korea was trying to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington by deciding to join the Winter Games and talk with Seoul.

“If I were them [North Korea] I would try” to drive a wedge between the allies, said Trump. “But the difference is, I’m president; other people aren’t. And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s ever lived.”

The two Koreas have been on better terms since Kim announced in a New Year’s address on Jan. 1 he was willing to send a delegation to South Korea for the Games, adding both countries could “urgently” meet to discuss the issue. As a result, Seoul and Pyongyang held their first high-level inter-Korean talks last Tuesday near the border on the southern side, which resulted in an agreement to boost cooperation in various fields, to continue to hold high-level talks and discuss the easing of tensions in a military meeting.

But North Korea refused to hold a reunion of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War or make any concessions on its missile and nuclear development program, claiming its weapons were all aimed at the United States, not South Korea.

In a symbolic message of disdain for international sanctions, Kim chose the State Academy of Sciences, the country’s hub for research and development, as his first place to publicly inspect as leader in 2018.

North Korea’s official mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), quoted Kim as praising the researchers’ efforts on the “foundation of self-supporting national economy, scientific and technical forces,” adding “there are no difficulties insurmountable for us despite the enemies’ sanctions of 10 years or 100 years,” according to an English version of the report published Friday.

KCNA did not clarify the date of Kim’s visit, but given its customary practice of reporting Kim’s activities a day later, it appears he went on Thursday.

Brian Hook, policy planning director for U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson, said Thursday in Washington that the United States wouldn’t curtail its sanctions campaign.

Next Tuesday, the U.S. and Canada will be co-hosting the Vancouver Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability, participated in by countries who sent combat support and/or humanitarian aid to South Korea during the Korean War, to discuss concrete steps they can take to help “increase the campaign,” Hook said during a press briefing.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]


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