WASHINGTON — The White House today defended President Trump’s comment that he would be “honored” to sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as “a diplomatic piece” of the DPRK puzzle, but press secretary Sean Spicer clarified no such meeting is in the works.
In an Oval Office interview Monday with Bloomberg News, Trump said of Kim, “If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it. If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”
“Most political people would never say that,” he added, “but I’m telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him. We have breaking news.”
Spicer told reporters today that “there’s a lot of conditions that I think would have to happen with respect to [North Korea’s] behavior and its — and to show signs of good faith.”
“Clearly, conditions are not there right now” for the two leaders to meet, he said.
On the subject of Trump saying he’d be “honored” by such a meeting, ABC’s Jonathan Karl reminded Spicer, “This is somebody who has starved his own people, somebody that’s threatened to destroy the United States. Just last week, he put out a video showing the Capitol getting destroyed by North Korean fighters. How could he be honored to meet with Kim Jong Un?”
The press secretary replied that Trump “understands the threat that North Korea poses and he will do whatever is necessary, under the right circumstances, to protect our country from the threat that they pose.”
“Why would that be an honor?” Karl pressed.
“I guess because he is still a head of state, so it’s — it — it is, sort of — there’s a diplomatic piece to this,” Spicer said.
“But the bottom line is the president’s going to do what he has to do. And right now, he’s building a coalition in the region to isolate North Korea, both economically and diplomatically, to get the threat — to — to take that threat down.”
Today’s comments to Bloomberg follow a Trump interview aired Sunday morning on CBS in which the president was asked about his thoughts on the dictator. “People are saying, is he sane? I have no idea,” he replied.
“I can tell you this. And a lot of people don’t like when I say it, but he was a young man of 26 or 27 when he took over from his father, when his father died. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others,” Trump continued.
“And, at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So, obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie.”
In addition to having his half-brother assassinated with VX, a deadly nerve agent, in the Kuala Lumpur airport and having his uncle shot to death, South Korean intelligence said Kim has executed senior officials with an anti-aircraft gun.
Spicer explained today that Kim “assumed power at a young age when his father passed away, and there was a lot of potential threats that could have come his way, and he’s obviously managed to lead a country forward despite the obvious concerns that we and so many other people have.”
“You know, he is a young person to be leading a country with nuclear weapons,” he added. “And so, that set aside, I think the president recognizes the threat that he poses, and is doing everything he can to isolate that threat and to make sure that we bring stability to the region.”
Spicer added later that “there’s going to be a whole host”of conditions to talk with Kim “that we determine, that the State Department determines, in consultation with the president, that have to be met.”
“As I mentioned, we are so early into this process that I don’t see this happening any time soon. But I think that as the president, like, said, under the right circumstances — those circumstances aren’t present today, and there would have to be significant change for that to even be a possibility.”