Trump says he could meet N. Korea’s Kim

Josh Lederman
Associated Press

Washington — President Donald Trump opened the door Monday to a future meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, offering unusual praise for the globally ostracized leader at a time of surging nuclear tensions.

Although the White House played down near-term prospects for such a meeting, Trump’s conciliatory comments marked a departure from his more unforgiving tone toward the North in recent days. It marked the latest fluctuation as Trump’s administration struggles to articulate its policy for addressing the growing threat from North Korea’s nuclear program.

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump told Bloomberg News.

Clearly aware of the power of his declaration, he added: “We have breaking news.”

As a presidential candidate, Trump suggested he was open to meeting Kim, but hadn’t repeated the line since taking office. Fresh missile tests by the North and its progress toward developing a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States have made the isolated communist dictatorship one of America’s top national security concerns.

Deeming President Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” with North Korea a total failure, Trump and his aides say they’re taking a more aggressive approach, at times warning of potential military confrontation if the North doesn’t change course. The U.S. has even raised the possibility of a pre-emptive strike if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test.

Yet on other occasions, Trump’s administration has dangled carrots. It has spoken of restarting negotiations with the North and even suggested resuming food aid to North Korea once it starts dismantling its nuclear and missile programs.

On one point, at least, Trump and his team have been consistently clear: A solution requires China, the North’s biggest economic partner.

Trump’s suggestion of admiration for Kim, however, is something entirely new.

He noted that Kim assumed office in his 20s and has held power despite efforts by “a lot of people” to take it away.

“So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie,” Trump told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview that aired Sunday.

Tasked with explaining Trump’s flattery, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said there would be no meeting with the secretive North Korean leader until circumstances were right and numerous conditions met.

Speed up nuke program

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry says the country will speed up measures to bolster its nuclear program “at the maximum pace” in response to the new U.S. policy that calls for new sanctions and “maximum pressure and engagement.”

A statement from the Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday that was circulated by North Korea’s U.N. Mission says the government is ready to respond to any option taken by the United States.