President Trump says he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “under the right circumstances,” raising once more the question of what his administration’s North Korea policy is.
“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 on Monday. “If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”
The president’s remarks about Kim over the past few days also suggests he is sympathetic to the North Korean leader’s assumption of power in 2012 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.
“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age,” Trump told Reuters last week. “I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that's a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational.”
Trump told Bloomberg Monday: “Most political people would never say that, but I’m telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him. We have breaking news.”
His remarks echo those of Barack Obama, who as presidential candidate was criticized for saying he would meet without preconditions the leaders of North Korea and other nations at odds with the U.S. At the time, Obama offered a rationale for his apparent conciliatory approach: “And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them—which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this [the Bush] administration—is ridiculous.” Ultimately, Obama never did meet with North Korea’s leadership, which tested a long-range missile soon after he took office, all but ending U.S. efforts at direct diplomacy with Pyongyang. (Three round of direct talks in 2012 failed.) The Obama administration then adopted an approach it described as “strategic patience” with North Korea. It’s that policy that both U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence have declared dead in recent weeks—after repeated North Korean missile tests—only to send conflicting messages about what exactly U.S. policy is toward the North.