Donald Trump calls Kim Jong-un ‘very honourable’ ahead of planned meeting

Jeremy B White
The Independent

​Donald Trump has called North Korea’s dictatorial leader Kim Jong-un “very honourable” ahead of a planned face-to-face meeting.

“We’re having very good discussions. Kim Jong-un, he really has been very open and I think very honourable, from everything we’re seeing”, Mr Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

While the planned summit has led both North Korea and the US to trade threats of war for cautious outreach, Mr Trump’s praise for Mr Kim was nevertheless a remarkable embrace of a ruler who has used brutal tactics to maintain his power.

As the uncontested ruler of the isolated state, Mr Kim wields near-absolute authority over a country where human rights monitors say dissent is harshly punished. He has presided over a purge that is believe to have included the public execution of his own uncle.

But Mr Trump has a record of offering warm words for autocrats. He has spoken approvingly of Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose government is accused of unjustly jailing and sometimes orchestrating the assassinations of dissidents, and Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, whose crackdown on drugs has left thousands dead.

The statement swiftly drew criticism. Human Rights Watch responded by sharing video testimony of people who had served time in North Korean prison camps.

“Let’s get this straight: President Trump called John McCain a 'loser' and the North Korean dictator 'honorable'”, tweeted Rep Joe Crowley, a New York Democrat.

The president’s words also marked a sharp reversal from preceding months in which he derisively dubbed Mr Kim “Little Rocket Man” and threatened North Korea with an overwhelming military strike, promising “fire and fury” and vowing to “destroy” North Korea if provoked.

For his part, Mr Kim offered a rare direct response in which he mocked Mr Trump as a “mentally deranged US dotard”, and Pyongyang has also threatened to strike American soil. The regime tested increasingly powerful ballistic missiles, including by firing them over Japan, and what was likely a hydrogen bomb.

Mr Kim then pivoted to a diplomatic strategy earlier this year, sending athletes and his sister to the winter Olympics in South Korea. After high-level meetings between North Korean and South Korean officials, South Korea conveyed to the White House Mr Kim’s offer to meet.

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