In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night, President Trump said he trusts North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, and he attributes their special relationship to “good chemistry.”
“I get along with him really well. I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him. Look at the horrible threats that were made. No more threats. No more threats,” he told “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl.
Stahl pressed Trump about his words of “love” for Kim at a rally last month in Wheeling, West Virginia, citing the dictator’s résumé of alleged human rights abuses.
Stahl asked: “He presides over a cruel kingdom of repression, gulags, starvation — reports that he had his half-brother assassinated, slave labor, public executions. This is a guy you love?”
Trump replied, “I know all these things. I mean — I’m not a baby. I know these things. … I get along with him, okay?”
Trump noted his words of “love” for Kim were just a figure of speech.
After Stahl compared the overtures to an “embrace,” Trump responded: “Let it be an embrace. Let it be whatever it is to get the job done.”
Despite holding a summit on denuclearization with Trump in June in Singapore, Kim has yet to provide a convincing sign that he’s ready to deal away his nuclear weapons, which he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.
Trump said their work together already is a “great achievement.”
“The day before I came in, we were goin’ to war with North Korea. I sat with President Obama … and — we were gonna — I think it was going to end up in war. And my impression is — and even in my first few months, I mean, that rhetoric was as tough as it could possibly get. Doesn’t get any tougher than that,” the president said. “Nobody’s ever heard rhetoric that tough. We were going to war with North Korea. Now, you don’t hear that. You don’t hear any talk of it. And (Kim) doesn’t wanna go to war, and we don’t wanna go to war, and he understands denuclearization and he’s agreed to it. And you see that, he’s agreed to it. No missiles.”
The timeline for North Korea’s full and final denuclearization remains a work in progress.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Kim in Pyongyang last week to set up another summit between him and Trump following months of friction in lower-level talks that saw North Korea accuse Washington of “gangster-like” demands on denuclearization.
Trump told Stahl that he trusts Kim, “but we’ll see what happens.”
“They’re closing up sites,” the president added when questioned if North Korea had gotten rid of any weapons.
“They haven’t tested a missile. They haven’t tested a rocket. They definitely haven’t done a nuclear test because you know about them real fast. It sort of moves the earth. And we have a relationship now,” Trump said.
Amid concerns in Washington that Pyongyang has lagged behind its supposed promise to denuclearize, U.S.-led international sanctions on exports from oil to seafood remain in place. Resolutions that had cut off all North Korean exports make up 90 percent of its trade. The sanctions are seen as being partly responsible for the thaw in relations that led to the denuclearization summit.
The president noted: “This isn’t the Obama administration. I haven’t eased the sanctions. I haven’t done anything. I haven’t done anything. We’re meeting. I believe he likes me. I like him. We have a good relationship. It’s very important.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.