President Donald Trump praised Kim Jong Un during a Fox News interview yesterday, calling the leader of a totalitarian regime a “smart guy” and a “great negotiator.”
“He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have, if you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that,” Trump told Fox News’ Bret Baier. “So he’s a very smart guy, he’s a great negotiator, but I think we understand each other.”
The president's comments are particularly alarming when one considers Kim's human rights record, which is widely considered the worst in the world. The North Korean representative's human rights abuses are lengthy and include torturing, starving, and killing his own people and charges of indefinite detention.
When Baier pointed to Kim's human rights record, Trump objected.
“Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things,” Trump said. “I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.”
BAIER: Kim Jong Un is "clearly executing people." TRUMP: "He's a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tou… https://t.co/qWILxvRaY5— Kyle Griffin (@Kyle Griffin) 1528929612.0
The president also addressed Baier's concerns that he had offered North Korea several concessions, including the cessation of military-preparedness training with the South Koreans and the possible removal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula. The president's critics allege that these concessions––diminished American influence on the penninsula––are precisely what China wants.
To that, Trump said that the Chinese have been "very helpful":
No, I think China would really like to see no nuclear weapons, you want to know the truth, because look, whether you’re semi-friendly with a nation or not, when they have nuclear weapons and you’re that close, that can’t be a positive feeling. t just can’t be. So China’s been very helpful. I think over the last two months, maybe less so. I think the border got a little more open. Now, it didn’t affect today’s negotiation, but I think the border opened up a little bit more because China could be a little bit upset about trade because we’re very strongly clamping down on trade.
The president said he has "a very strong relationship" with President Xi Jingping of China and noted that Xi had been appointed president for life.
“They just, essentially president for life, that’s pretty good," he said.
Trump on President Xi of China: "He's an incredible guy. You know, essentially president for life. That's pretty go… https://t.co/hx0ALCWOfS— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1528927917.0
The president's statement mirrors one he made at a rally in March, in which he praised leader of the Chinese Communist Party, who had his political thoughts written into the party and state constitutions, and effectively abolished term limits for the presidency. (“He’s now president for life,” Trump said at the time. “President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”)
The Fox News interview continued with President Trump once again praising authoritarian leaders, this time addressing his relationship with Vladimir Putin and his call for Russia to be readmitted into the G7 summit.
"I’m not for Russia, I’m for the United States," the president insisted.
But as an example, if Vladimir Putin were sitting next to me at a table instead of one of the others, and we were having dinner the other night in Canada, I could say ‘Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of Syria? Would you do me a favor? Would you get out of the Ukraine, get out of Ukraine, you shouldn’t be there? Just come on. Now, I think I’d probably have a good relationship with him or I’d be able to talk to him better than if you call somebody on a telephone and talk. If I’m sitting like I was with the others, for instance the new prime minister of Italy. He is a great guy, we had a great relationship. He agrees with me on Putin by the way.
Trump on why he wants Russia back in G7: "If Putin were sitting next to me & we were having dinner, I could say, 'w… https://t.co/TTAVtyBJfv— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1528928625.0
The interview is the latest gaffe in one of the strangest weeks for international diplomacy. Earlier yesterday, the president came under fire for screening a film which appears to exalt Kim.
“Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact,” the narrator says near the video’s start, as shots of Trump, Kim and North Korean pageantry appear on the screen. “And only a very few will make decisions or take actions to renew their homeland, or change the course of history.”
The film progresses, showing images from the Korean War.
“The past doesn’t have to be the future,” the narrator says. “What if a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future?”
The video proceeds into a montage of destruction from the conflict before giving way to what The Washington Post refers to as a “science-fiction like version North Korea,” in which “crane-dotted skylines, crowded highways, computerized factories and drones” signal what the country could become should Kim choose to forge positive relations with the United States.
“You can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources, innovative technology and new discoveries,” the narrator continues, before concluding, in pure Hollywood movie trailer fashion: “Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a meeting to remake history.”
Reporters expressed disbelief and the president maintains that the film is an elevator pitch, similar to what he, during his time working in real estate, would have used to persuade potential investors to finance a hotel.